Salvator Mundi Update 700 1005 Kathy

Salvator Mundi Update

My first blog was on the subject of the most expensive painting ever sold, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”. It seemed like a good place to start, was very topical, and I promised to keep readers up to date with events surrounding this most famous of paintings.

I had thought at the time that my next blog on the subject would be much later in the year or in early 2019, when the various experts had given their opinions as to the authenticity of the painting, and specifically, how much of it had been painted by Leonardo himself, and how much by his pupils and assistants.

Or is it? This is the question setting art experts against each other asking how much of the painting did Leonardo actually paint himself?

However, events are moving on rapidly, and when I opened The Art Newspaper,, I find that the seller of the painting, the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, is suing auction house Sotheby’s for $380 million in a Manhattan federal court.

This is not in any way connected with the authenticity of the painting, but as part of a decade long relationship and dispute with Yves Bouvier, a Swiss art dealer, who Rybolovlev accuses of conducting the “largest art fraud in history”. Rybolovlev claims that of the 38 paintings that Bouvier sold him over a ten year period, for a total price of $2 billion, Sotheby’s was involved in the sale of 14 of these paintings, including Salvator Mundi, overcharging Rybolovlev by up to $1 billion.

Court papers reveal that Bouvier was the mastermind in this alleged fraud, buying the paintings at much lower prices than he then sold on at to Rybolovlev, and that Sotheby’s was complicit in this fraud, adding it weight and reputation to Bouvier to obtain high commissions and fees from the resulting sales.

Of course this latest law suit is part of a long line of suit and counter suit, Sotheby’s jointly with Bouvier suing Rybolovlev, with suits filed not only in New York but also in Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bern and Geneva.

The list of works involved in this alleged fraud is indeed impressive. We have Wasserschlanger II (Water Serpents) by Gustav Klimt, bought by Bouvier for $112 million and sold to Rybolovlev for $187 million, in 2012;

there is Modigliani’s Nu Couche au Coussin Blue (Nude Reclining on a Blue Cushion), bought by Bouvier for $95 million and sold to Rybolovlev for $120 million, also in 2012.

Then there is Salvator Mundi. Bought for an estimated $84 million by Bouvier with Sotheby’s involved in the private purchase and later resale by Bouvier to Rybolovlev at a price of $129 million, in 2013.

The problem for Rybolovlev is this, though.

Salvator Mundi was sold on his behalf by Christie’s in November 2107, to the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, for $450 million, resulting in a profit of over $300 million for Rybolovlev.

Bit difficult to claim a fraud against you when you walk away with a $300 million profit!!

ART MARKET NEWS 1024 555 Kathy


Welcome to the first blog in what will be a regular feature – current news about the art market.

As a leading supplier of hand painted oil on canvas paintings, and with our own studio of professional artists painting every order placed by hand, and using only accredited reference sources, I thought it would be interesting to start the first Art Market News blog with the story of the most expensive painting ever to be sold, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”.

Or is it? This is the question setting art experts against each other asking how much of the painting did Leonardo actually paint himself?

Everyone knows about Leonardo – incredible Renaissance artist, sculptor, inventor, engineer, astronomer, mathematician, architect – in essence one of the most brilliant men who has ever lived.

Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world.


The story so far.

Salvator Mundi is a painting of Jesus Christ depicted as the savior of the world, showing Jesus in a Renaissance dress, with his right hand raised and two fingers open, and holding a transparent crystal orb in his left hand, said to represent the heavens. About 20 versions of the painting are known, all painted by followers of Leonardo, and this painting had generally been considered as a copy of the lost original.

The painting was purchased at auction in New Orleans in 2005, for less than $10,000, by a group of art dealers who thought that although the painting at the time was described as a wreck, it might turn out to be the long lost original.

After restoration and cleaning, and attribution to Leonardo by experts at the National Gallery in London, it was exhibited at the National Gallery in 2011, and then sold to Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127 million.

After extensive research by the world’s leading art experts, the painting was confirmed as the original and sold at auction by Christie’s in New York in 2017 to the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism for their newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, for $450 million, the most expensive painting ever sold, either at auction or privately.


Where are we now?

It has just been reported that the unveiling of the painting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi has been postponed indefinitely.

Tellingly, the announcement comes just a month after a well known Leonardo specialist, Matthew Landrus, the University of Oxford academic, set out his theory that in fact only about 20 – 30% of the painting had been painted by Leonardo himself and that a Leonardo pupil, Bernadino Luini, Leonardo’s assistant, had painted the rest. Detailed findings will be published soon in Landrus’s new book, “Leonardo da Vinci

Top Leonardo scholar and expert Martin Kemp, from the National Gallery in London who had helped to authenticate the painting originally, was scathing in his defense and stated that no such comments would have been made about the authenticity of the painting had it not been for the amount of the sale price.

With so much money and prestige involved, there is no doubt that this is a controversy that will run and run, and this blog will keep you informed of all developments. Stay tuned!