Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Male Mona Lisa' Sold for $450 Million
Last November 15, after 19 minutes of bidding at Christie’s in New York City, a record was broken when a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, called Salvator Mundi, sold for $450 million.
Da Vinci is believed to have painted less than 30 works in his lifetime, and Christie’s billed this painting as “the last da Vinci.”
The painting is of Jesus with long golden brown hair, dressed in blue robes, giving a benediction with his raised right hand. In his other hand, Jesus holds a clear orb of glass or crystal.
The money paid for the Salvator Mundi, $450,312,500 to be exact, is the highest price ever paid for an artwork. The previous record price was $76.7 million for the 'Massacre of the Innocents' by Peter Paul Rubens.
The Leonardo buyer’s identity has not been revealed, but the media had their guesses - from Amazon owner Jeff Bezos to Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian, who paid $170 million for a Modigliani for his new museum in Shanghai.
However, there's still some skepticism in the art world over the painting itself. For quite some time, it was not accepted as being a painting by Leonardo da Vinci but by someone in his workshop. In fact, the artwork sold for just a mere $10,000 at an estate sale last 2005. It was considered a copy of a lost Leonardo then.
Salvator Mundi was then extensively restored by conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini in New York City. At a certain point respected authenticators, made aware of what was underneath, declared that the painting was actually painted by the Old Master himself - a long lost da Vinci work.
The painting – last purchased by Russian billionaire Dimitry Rybolovlev for $127 million - was put up for auction with an estimated price of $100 million. The auction house promoted it as “the greatest and most unexpected artistic rediscovery of the 21st century.”
The agreed-upon history of Salvator Mundi is that it was painted circa 1500, during the time that Leonardo’s patron was King Louis XII of France.
The painting belonged to England’s Charles I in the 17th century but then disappeared until the 20th century. In 1958, when it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in London, it was actually first attributed to Boltraffio, who worked in Leonardo’s studio.
Charles Hope, of the Warburg Institute at the University of London, who was one of the skeptics, wrote in the New York Review of Books, “even making allowances for its extremely poor state of preservation, it is a curiously unimpressive composition and it is hard to believe that Leonardo himself was responsible for anything so dull.”
In The New York Times, critic Jason Fargo wrote that in London, he beheld “a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.”
Skeptics say that while the Mona Lisa has a depth of mystery in her expression that leaves any observer in awe, the eyes of Jesus in the Salvator Mundi are blank.
Nonetheless, headlines have exploded that this painting is a “male Mona Lisa.”
However, other art experts are certain that the painting came from the brush of Leonardo da Vinci alone. One said that there was “extraordinary consensus it is by Leonardo.”