Leonardo Christ painting sells for record $450M

Oscar Cross
November 17, 2017

At the moment Pylkkanen stated $400 million was up (plus fees) the room held their breaths as agents whispered into their phones with buyers.

The Cook Collection acquired Da Vinci's painting in 1900, but it was mistaken for a copy. It far surpassed Picasso's "Women of Algiers", which fetched $179.4 million at Christie's in May 2015.

The 500-year-old oil painting depicting Christ holding a crystal orb is called "Salvator Mundi" or "Savior of the World".

Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie's postwar and contemporary art department, said the work of art attracted crowds of people while on exhibition in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's auction. We felt that offering this painting within the context of our Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale is a testament to the enduring relevance of this picture. Salvator Mundi evokes joy, ecstasy, anger, awe - it just touches every emotion. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

With much of public-facing art world firmly turning its back on the Trumps, it's yet another example of the fraught, high-stakes interests at play.


Christie's says it belonged to Charles I, after possibly being made for the French royal family and taken to England by Queen Henrietta Maria when she married the English monarch in 1625.

When it finally resurfaced, it was damaged from restoration attempts and was purchased by British collector Sir Frederick Cook.

The painting has an interesting sales history. "Prior to that, it was consigned to a 1958 sale at Sotheby's where it sold for PS45 (around $53 U.S.)".

Alan Wintermute, Senior Specialist, Old Master Paintings at Christie's commented: "The Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of old master paintings. Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now", Wintermute said. The word "masterpiece" barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo's painting'.

Furthermore, he added it's honestly "wonderful" for an "Old Master" to be at the center of attention once again. After centuries of hiding, da Vinci's Christ as "Salvator Mundi " stirred unmatched sensation in the art world when it was unveiled on the walls of London's National Gallery in 2011. When a controversial piece of such dubious authenticity is sold at prices no museum can afford, making it available only to the increasingly indistinguishable cliques of oligarchs and their head-of-state business pals, it contributes to a market where expertise and devotion to art are dispensed with; the final word on what's a Leonardo and what isn't goes to the highest bidder, not the most knowledgeable or most dedicated scholar.

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