A resounding round of applause ensued after a 500-year-old painting believed to be a piece by Leonardo da Vinci was sold for an eye-popping $450.3 million during an auction sale at Christie’s in New York on Wednesday.
After almost 20 minutes of intense bidding with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, legendary artist, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi blazed a new world record for the most expensive work of art sold at an auction. The piece of art did more than doubling the previous record of $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers (Version O)” in New York in 2015.
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen juggled rival suitors before a packed crowd of excited onlookers in the salesroom as the bidding went back and forth.
He later declared the massive sale;
“Thank you all for your bidding,” said Pykklanen. “Four hundred million selling here at Christie’s. The piece is sold,” he said while the room erupted into a deafening applause.
Ironically, the Russian seller behind the piece had lodged a legal suit, accusing a Swiss art dealer in Monaco of allegedly overcharging him when he bought the work for $127.5 million in 2013.
Salvator Mundi which translates to Savior of the World depicts Jesus Christ. The masterpiece is the long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ commissioned by King Louis XII of France more than 500 years ago. The piece went missing for years only to resurface at a regional auction in 2005.
According to Christie’s, it is one of fewer than 20 Da Vinci paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master’s own hand. All his other paintings are held in a museum or institutional collections.
Dated to around 1500, Salvator Mundi fetched only 45 British pounds in 1958, at the time it’s believed to have been a copy, before subsequently disappearing for years.
Christie’s CEO, Guillaume Cerutti, said he did not know whether the buyer would reveal themselves. “I cannot say if he or she will want to be public.” Apparently, they will not be lured into revealing the identity of the buyer or even the region they came from.
Salvator Mundi of Da Vinci
Salvator Mundi has been described at one point by Loic Gouzer, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York, as a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time. Such are the sentiments that the painting often inspires. When it was unveiled in 2011 in London, it was quite a worldwide media sensation. Few guesses are needed as to why the painting is so popular. The handiest reason is the fact that Leonardo Da Vinci paintings (widely accepted as his own work) are rare. In fact, less than 20 paintings are generally considered as the artist’s own work. The Salvator Mundi was the first discovery of a Da Vinci painting since the Benois Madonna in 1909.
Before Salvator Mundi could be included in the 2011 exhibition at the National Gallery, it had to go through almost six whole years of inquiry and research to determine and document its authenticity. This authentification began shortly after the painting was discovered in a small, regional auction in the United States. It had so long been considered a copy. Extensive restoration work has been carried out on the painting. In 2007, Dianne Dwyer Modestini, Senior Research Fellow and Conservator of the Kress Program in Paintings Conservation at the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, documented her process in this and her conclusion was that it was indeed an autograph work of Da Vinci.
In 2008, the painting then moved to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to be studied by museum curators Carmen Bambach, Andrea Bayer, Keith Christiansen, and Everett Fahy, and by Michael Gallagher, Head of the Department of Paintings Conservation. It moved from there to the National Gallery, London and this time there was a comparative study of the Salvator Mundi and The Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo’s painting of approximately the same date. Several leading Leonardo da Vinci scholars were invited to study the two paintings together.
All this intensive study and authentification gifted the world and, especially, the particularly rich bidder who bought it for a whopping $450.3 million an original Leonardo da Vinci painting.