10 Things To Know About Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi', Which Just Sold For $450 Million
A historic bidding war that only lasted for under 20 minutes took place last Wednesday, November 15, at Christie’s in New York. The artwork up for auction was Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci’s rediscovered “Salvator Mundi” (Saviour of the World) masterpiece.
Despite doubts on its authenticity, the painting—a depiction of Christ whose right hand is raised in blessing while his left hand holds a crystal sphere—was sold for a record-breaking price of $450,312,500 (including buyer’s premium) to an unknown buyer.
Below are 10 interesting things about the artwork and the extraordinary journey it went through to become the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction.
1. It is believed to have been painted sometime in 1500. This makes it contemporary with Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa,” one of the most valuable and best known paintings in the world, which he worked on in Florence. Although some think it may be contemporary with “The Last Supper,” which is presumed to have been painted in 1490s in Milan. Leonardo died in 1519.
2. Leonardo was commissioned to paint it possibly for King Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany.
3. Its medium is oil on walnut panel. Its panel’s dimensions are 25 13/16 x 17 15/16 in (65.5 x 45.1 cm) top; 17¾ in (45.6 cm) bottom. The painted image’s dimensions are 15? x 17½ in (64.5 x 44.7 cm).
4. It is a rare masterpiece, because it is one of only 20 paintings by Leonardo that are known to exist.
5. It has been nicknamed as the “male Mona Lisa,” because of its “unreadable expression, the delicately placed hands and the intricacy of the curls of his hair,” according to forbes.com. “All these are characteristic of Da Vinci’s style.”
6. It is the so-called “greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th century.” The artwork was passed around from one owner to another. In 1625, French princess Henrietta Maria married King Charles I of England and brought the painting with her to England. In 1651, it was sold at the “Commonwealth Sale” to mason John Stone but he later returned it to Charles II. It remained with the royal family until the late 18th century. It had since gone missing for around 200 years, then resurfaced as part of the collection of Sir Frederick Cook. In 1958, it was sold at an auction for £45. Almost 50 years after, the painting was discovered in 2005 at an American estate sale where New York art dealer Alexander Parish purchased it for only $10,000, thinking it was fake. In 2013, it landed on the hands of Swiss “Freeport King” Yves Bouvier at a private Sotheby’s sale for around $80 million. That same year, Bouvier sold it for $127.5 million to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who put it up for auction at Christie’s.
7. The significant differences of the prices for which the artwork had been sold ignited legal disputes. Its price ranged from $10,000 in 2005 to $80 million in 2013, spiking up to $127.5 million in the same year.
8. It took more than six years of research and inquiry to document its authenticity. It was then included in the exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” at The National Gallery in London as “one of 16 paintings in existence generally accepted as from the artist’s own hand.”
9. Christie’s named it as “The Last da Vinci,” because it is the first and only painting by Leonardo in the 21st century that was verified as an original. Before this, “Benois Madonna” or “Madonna and Child With Flowers” was the painting by Leonardo that was verified in 1909.
10. Prior to this, the most expensive painting sold at an auction was by Spanish painter Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s “Women of Algiers” fetched $179.4 million, also at Christie’s in New York.
Photos from www.christie's.com and @rariegelhaupt on Instagram