Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" (Saviour of the World) has become the most expensive artwork to ever sell at auction. Dating back to around 1500, the rare painting was bought for $450 million following 19 minutes of bidding at Christie's in New York on Wednesday evening. The record sale price - more than four times the Christie presale estimate of about $100 million-includes the buyer’s premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house. The identity of the buyer — who secured the painting by phone — was not immediately disclosed.
The painting is one of fewer than 20 authenticated works by the Italian grand master known still to exist and the last Leonardo left in private hands. All others are held in museum or institutional collections.
The 66-centimeter-tall painting depicts Jesus Christ in Renaissance clothing, one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a crystal orb, which represents the Earth. It was once owned by King Charles I of England, disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. But by then, it was no longer credited to da Vinci but to his follower Bernardino Luini. In the 195os “Salvator Mundi” was sold at Sotheby’s for just £45 (about £800 in today’s money) when it was mistaken for a copy. 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 previous record-holder as the most expensive painting sold at auction was Pablo Picasso's "Women of Algiers (Version O)," which went for $179 million in 2015 also at Christie’s in New York. Willem de Kooning's "Interchange" for $300 million and Paul Cézanne's "The Card Players" for roughly $250 million, were purchased at private sales.
“Salvator Mundi” was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale and more than 27,000 art lovers lined up to view it, among them Leonardo Di Caprio, Patti Smith and other celebrities.
"This is the holy grail of Old Master paintings, some people call it the male Mona Lisa," Francois de Poortere, head of the Old Masters department at Christie's, told USA Today during the painting's stopover in San Francisco last month. "People are deeply taken by this work. You could buy it and just build an entire museum around it."
About Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was born on 15 April 1452 in the region of Florence, Italy and died on 2 May 1519. He was an Italian Renaissance polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived and one of the greatest painters of all time. His most famous works include the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and his drawing the Vitruvian Man.