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IT IS considered one of Leonardo da Vinci's finest paintings and its theft from the Duke of Buccleuch's home in 2003 was one of the most audacious art crimes ever committed.

But last night, it was announced that the £37 million Madonna of the Yarnwinder had been recovered – and The Scotsman can reveal that alawyer working for one of the country's most successful and respected law firms was among four men arrested. 

The man, who was believed to be a partner in the firm but who had not been officially named, was arrested yesterday in the offices of HBJ Gateley Wareing in West Regent Street, Glasgow.

Police said the 16th-century painting – whose theft was regarded by the FBI as one of the world's ten worst art crimes – was discovered following a raid in Glasgow. The three other men arrested were said to be from the Lancashire area.

Last night, it was reported that the painting had been discovered by police at HBJ Gateley Wareing's offices.

The four men are due to appear in court today.

RTRH

A hugely valuable and rare link to genius of the Renaissance
ALASTAIR DALTON

MADONNA of the Yarnwinder is one of only a few paintings which have been authenticated as a Leonardo da Vinci.

Art critics have described the painting, which is just 19in by 14in, as one of his most interesting and complete sketches.

It is also regarded as one of the most important paintings to have been stolen in the UK in the past 70 years.

Brian Sewell, one of Britain's best-known art critics, said: "There
is so little that can reasonably be attributed to Leonardo, there are
only about 12 of his paintings left. As this one has been accepted as
one of his finished ones, it makes it very important and highly
valuable."

The 10th Duke of Buccleuch, who succeeded his late father this year,
said: "It's the most beautiful work of art by one of the greatest
painters in the world. It is a work of such peace and beauty."

He said the painting had been purchased in Italy in the 18th century
by the third duke and had been conclusively identified as a work by the
Renaissance master only in 1986 following scientific tests.

It was painted in about 1501 for Florimand Robertet, the secretary
of state to Louis XII of France, and symbolises the future passion of
Jesus Christ. Professor Duncan McMillan, the visual art critic for The
Scotsman, said: "It is incredibly important and contemporary with the
Mona Lisa."

Leonardo, born in 1452 at Vinci is often described as a "Renaissance
man", a genius who left behind a legacy of some of the world's finest
art.

Two of his greatest works were the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper,
which attract millions of visitors each year and are the most
reproduced artworks of all time. Their nearest rival is Michelangelo's
Creation of Adam.

Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic.

He was also a scientist and engineer who designed prototypes for early "machines" such as helicopters and telescopes.

Scientists regard his research as unique and astounding for its
time. He compiled hundreds of notebooks containing 13,000 pages of
notes and drawings, many of which are a rare combination of art and
science.

Possessing a great deal of self- discipline, Leonardo spent hours
every day, whether at home or on his travels, recording his
observations and ideas for future projects.

The journals were mostly written in mirror-image cursive script –
some suggest that this was because Leonardo was left-handed rather than
a necessary precaution in a time when church authorities persecuted
free-thinkers who put science before religious beliefs.

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