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Is this portrait by da Vinci?

Peter Silverman had a hunch — one that could be worth tens of millions.

Peter Silverman had a hunch — one that could be worth tens of millions.

In 2007, the Montreal-born art collector was in Manhattan with a friend when the pair popped into a gallery. His friend noticed a drawing of a young woman’s profile, billed as “German, early 19th century,” and he asked Silverman to take a closer look.

“I looked at it and right away knew it was special,” Silverman said yesterday from his home in France.

“I bought it right away (for $22,000),” he said. “I walked out and told my friend, ‘It’s definitely 16th-century.’” But several art experts say the ink and chalk drawing is not just a Renaissance piece, but also the work of Leonardo da Vinci, proven by a smudged palm and fingerprint on one corner.

One London dealer valued the piece at $165 million. But other experts dispute its authenticity. The portrait has been digitally scanned and carbon-dated. An analysis of the fingerprint appears to match one on da Vinci’s painting of St. Jerome in the Vatican. And the careful left-handed shading is typical of the master.

The piece has been renamed La Bella Principessa, after the daughter of a 15th-century duke that it is believed to portray.

 
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