Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi painting has a fascinating and mysterious past. Today, it's one of the most famous paintings of Christ. Despite this, the original Salvator Mundi was lost for centuries, only resurfacing in the 1990s.
So, what is the story behind one of Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings? Here's a glimpse into its complex history.
Salvator Mundi Painting by Leonardo da Vinci
There are very few records detailing the Salvator Mundi original. Scholars believe King Louis XIII of France commissioned da Vinci's painting. However, what is still being determined is whether the painting was for himself or his consort, Anne of Brittany. The date of the painting is also uncertain, but the Salvator Mundi painting was probably created between 1499 and 1510.
Translated as "Savior of the World," Salvator Mundi is also the world's most expensive and controversial painting. In the early 2000s, the National Gallery in London, UK, included the Salvator Mundi painting in a major da Vinci exhibition. In 2011, another Exhibition transformed our knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings.
Christie's auction house sold the painting in 2017 as the original Leonardo Salvator Mundi, following formal attribution to Leonardo da Vinci in 2011. The timeline history of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting is fascinating. In 2013 the painting was sold to Yves Bouvier, the Swiss art dealer, who then sold it to Dmitry Rybolovlev for a reported $127.5m. At the Christie's Auction in November 2017, the Salvator Mundi was offered for sale for a price in "excess of $100m".
Competition to purchase the painting was intense; it was sold for $450m. It was later confirmed that the buyer was reportedly Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince. What follows is an interesting exchange between the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Department of Cultural Tourism in Abu Dhabi. It was not included despite an expectation that Da Vinci's famous Renaissance painting would exhibit at the Louvre exhibition to celebrate the 500th anniversary of da Vinci's death.
In the intervening period, Renaissance art experts continued to debate the authenticity of the Salvator Mundi and its attribution to Leonard Da Vinci. The genuine attribution was subsequently disputed by some specialists, however. As a result, debates concerning the authenticity of the Salvator Mundi and its authenticity still rage today.
What is so special about the Salvator Mundi Painting?
Aside from the protracted and fascinating story of rediscovery and re-attribution, the Salvator Mundi painting is exceptional for its sheer skill and beauty. Many viewers report an almost religious sense of calm and serenity when face to face with the painting.
Classic Da Vinci techniques such as "sfumato" appear on the face of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the skin tones very carefully blend into one another. This method creates a softened and hazy effect, particularly noticeable around the edges of the eyes and mouth. This classic technique is visible in Da Vinci's The Mona Lisa painting.Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.
Da Vinci's Renaissance painting of Jesus also features several unusual details. For example, Christ wears ornate gold and blue robes in the Renaissance style rather than traditional biblical clothing. His right hand creates the sign of the cross. In Jesus's left hand, however, he holds a crystal orb. The orb reflects Jesus's role as the world's savior, including the earth and the heavens.
How much is Leonardo da Vinci's painting worth?
Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi made headlines worldwide on 15 November 2017. It sold for a staggering $450 million at Christie's Auction House, New York. Prince Badr bin Abdullah bought the painting for Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.
Today, Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, owns the picture. It hangs in his private collection.
This price meant Salvator Mundi shot to the top of the most expensive paintings in the world. Considering inflation, it beats artworks such as Paul Cezanne's The Card Players, which sold for $250 million in 2011, and Paul Gauguin's When Will You Marry? Gauguin's oil painting sold for just over $210 million in 1892.
Is Salvator Mundi real or fake?
There remains substantial disagreement about whether Leonardo da Vinci created Salvator Mundi.
Indeed, several television documentaries analyze the case. The most famous is The Lost Leonardo by Andreas Koefoed, which criticizes gallery experts and institutions. Many documentaries and scholars state the artwork isn't even a skillful painting, let alone a "true" Leonardo da Vinci painting.
Making this task even harder are the many reproduction paintings of the artwork, often by students and followers of Leonardo. There are around thirty variations and copies by followers and pupils.
In addition, the British Royal Collection holds two chalk and ink sketches of remarkable similarity. These are original Leonardo drawings.
Leonardo da Vinci: Art Reproductions
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