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Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi smashes world records with $450 million sale

17th November 2017

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Note: This post has been moved from Latest Picks due to length of extended updates.

Rare Da Vinci painting smashes world records with $450 million sale (cnn.com).

“Salvator Mundi”, Leonardo De Vinci, image: Christie’s
Image: Christie’s
“Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’—featuring Christ with hand raised in blessing in the tradition of Christian iconography—has become the most expensive artwork to ever sell at auction, going for $450.3 million at Christie’s in New York. Dating back to around 1500, the rare painting is one of fewer than 20 authenticated works by the Italian in existence.”

The painting, “Salvator Mundi” (“Savior of the World”), was commissioned by Louis XII of France and later owned by England’s Charles I, but was then lost in the late 18th Century and dismissed as a copy when reappearing in poor condition and heavily overpainted in 1958 and sold for £45 ($59). But acquired by a group of art dealers in 2005, it was restored and subsequently authenticated, with the previous owner, a Russian businessman purchasing it for $127.5m in 2013.

Updated 13th December 2017

Mystery buyer of $450 Million “Salvator Mundi” was a Saudi prince (nytimes.com).

“He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting ‘Salvator Mundi,’ which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.”

Reminding that buying art is not necessary about loving art and likely more about conspicuous consumption (Wikipedia) and the hierarchical leg-up that can give.

Updated 15th October 2018

But are buyers sure of its worth?

The Da Vinci mystery: why is his $450m masterpiece really being kept under wraps? (theguardian.com).

Aside from the enduring possibility that it’s a Sexton Blake (phrases.org.uk), an opinion at least one Oxford academic has gone public with, it seems it’s what’s actually under the “heavily overpainted” restoration, or not:

But if the Louvre Abu Dhabi really has got doubts about Salvator Mundi, they will most likely be about its condition. For there really is a problem with this painting and it is there for anyone to see.

The repaints, although not quite “Monkey Jesus” (thelocal.es, Aug. 2013)—which surely should be awarded Dadaist conceptual art crown usually awarded to the likes of Banksy for its shear endearing New Sincerity at least—not far enough off enough for “expert” opinion, but once the “previous repaints” were cleaned off what was left was a masterpiece with streaky gaps, some running from top to bottom, and an overabundance of divine digits:

When the painting was cleaned, it turned out Christ had two right thumbs.
Salvator Mundi cleaned with repaints removed, image: © 2011 Salvator Mundi LLC
“Salvator Mundi” cleaned with repaints removed, image: © 2011 Salvator Mundi LLC

But a divine discovery for those seeking to prove its authenticity:

This is what art historians call a “pentimento”—literally, a repentance, used to mean a second thought. If the artist had such a second thought, it’s regarded as evidence that this is an original, not a copy—as why would a copier have second thoughts?

Therefore not another of the around 20 other versions of the work known to exist by students and followers of Leonardo. But regardless, in that state the thumb is seemingly not up for Louvre Abu Dhabi with its 18th September unveiling postponed with only an official statement that: “Further details will be announced soon”.

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