Da Vinci masterpiece sells for record $591 million

Jenna Warner
November 17, 2017

The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179 million, for Pablo Picasso's painting "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in NY.

The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

The winning bid for the piece, titled "Salvator Mundi" ("Savior of the World"), was four times Christie's pre-sale estimate and smashed the world record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

The Cook Collection acquired Da Vinci's painting in 1900, but it was mistaken for a copy.

A rare painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci of Christ holding a crystal orb has sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at a NY auction. "It has been more than a century since the last such painting turned up and this opportunity will not come again in our lifetime". Although some are skeptical, including NY magazine art critic Jerry Saltz, the portrait is generally acknowledged to be one of fewer than 20 paintings by the master's own hand, and the only one not in a museum.

It was recorded in the collection of King Charles I of England in 1649 but was auctioned to the Duke of Buckingham in 1763.

The 500-year-old oil on panel depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand. By this time, its authorship by Leonardo, origins and illustrious royal history had been forgotten, and Christ's face and hair were overpainted.

"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time", said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie's, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

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. The final bid was $400 million, but the sale price includes a premium paid to Christie's. "Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now", Wintermute said. I can hardly convey how exciting it is for those of us directly involved in its sale.

Francois de Poortere, Head of Old Master Paintings, added: "It is an honor to be entrusted with the sale of this mystical masterpiece".

Luke Syson, curator of the 2011 National Gallery exhibition in London that featured the painting, said in his catalog essay that "the picture has suffered".

In New York, where no museum owns a Leonardo, art lovers lined up outside Christie's Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view "Salvator Mundi".

Here is to a moment of art glory.

Other reports by Insurance News

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