Salvator Mundi, the long-lost Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ commissioned by King Louis XII of France in 1500, has sold at Christie’s in New York for $450.3m, a new record for an artwork. Salvator mundi refers to the particular representation of Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in benediction. The artwork has undergone major restoration by conservator Dianne Modestini who started working on Salvator Mundi in 2005.
The painting had unknown whereabouts from 1763 to 1900 before being acquired by art collector Charles Robinson of Richmond, near London, who thought it was painted by Leonardo follower Bernardino Luini.
The painting has been at the heart of a hot debate among critics and historians who question whether this painting on wood is actually that of Leonardo da Vinci, raising doubts about the value of the work.
Many art experts such as Todd Levin, a curator and art adviser at Levin Art Group in New York believe that the artwork is actually by a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, Giovanni Boltraffio citing the less than impressive nature of the painting.
However, Carmen Bambach, an Italian Renaissance art specialist who is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote there was the possibility Boltraffio and Leonardo both painted it with major portions being done by Boltraffio but with portions such as Christ’s proper right blessing hand, portions of the sleeve, his left hand and the crystal orb done by Leonardo himself which she wrote in Apollo magazine in 2012.
But raging controversy and debate has not been able to dampen the spirit of the bidders, who were six in total including a bidder over the phone. The phone bidder turned out to be the winner.
The auction house did not reveal the identity of the buyer or even the region to which they belong.
The Salvator Mundi was the only Leonardo in private hands, raising expectations and anticipation amongst art lovers across the world. The interest in the painting is a testament to the work of Leonardo which remains just as influential as in the 15th and 16th centuries and