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1914: Purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna with a Flower (Benois Madonna)

In an exhibition organized by the journal Starye Gody, the Curator of the Picture Gallery of the Imperial Hermitage, Ernst Liphart, identified one work as an early piece by Leonardo da Vinci. The painting belonged to the family of the notable St Petersburg architect Leonty Benois, whose wife had inherited it from her father, the merchant Alexander Sapozhnikov. An inventory of paintings belonging to the merchant Alexander Sapozhnikov is now in the State Archives for the Astrakhan region, where the first record is devoted to this work by Leonardo.

In 1912 Maria Benois decided to sell the painting and sent it abroad; the London antiquarian Duveen offered 500,000 francs for it but the Russian public launched a drive to raise funds to purchase the masterpiece for the Hermitage Museum. Maria Benois eventually consented to sell the painting to the Russian government for the sum of just 150,000 roubles as a goodwill gesture and in 1914 the Benois Madonna was added to the Hermitage collection.

   
Madonna and the Child (The Benois Madonna)
Leonardo da Vinci
Image in the Digital collection

 

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