Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' sets new auction record in New York | Christie's

Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' sets new auction record in New York | Christie's

Darren Sullivan
November 17, 2017

It says it is the only painting by the Renaissance master in private hands. Prior to Wednesday's sale, the record for the most expensive painting sold was $179,364,992 for Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger (Version "O") in May 2015.

On Wednesday evening, an anonymous collector dialed in to a spacious room inside Rockefeller Center in New York City and instructed the person on the other end of the line to spend almost half a billion dollars for a 25.8-inch by 17.9-inch oil painting of Jesus Christ.

Once belonging to King Charles I of England, the painting was put up for sale by the family trust of billionaire Dmitri Ryobolev, who bought the painting in 2013. "The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honor that comes around once in a lifetime". The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

"Leonardo was an unparalleled creative force and a master of the enigmatic".

Dated to around 1500, the work sold after 19 minutes of frenzied bidding - an incongruous Old Master in Christie's evening postwar and contemporary sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of worldwide billionaire art collectors.

Christie's capitalized on the public's interest in Leonardo, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labeled the painting "The Last Da Vinci".

Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" painting. "No one will ever be able to fully grasp the wonder of Leonardo's paintings, just as no one will ever be able to fully know the origins of the universe." .

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The auction house has also played down the painting's volatile history.

Alan Wintermute, Senior Specialist, Old Master Paintings at Christie's commented: "The Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of old master paintings".

"Salvator Mundi" was attributed to Leonardo after six years of restoration and research, becoming the first discovery of a painting by the Renaissance master since 1909, according to Christie's.

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros) for Willem de Kooning's "Interchange" in September 2015, which was sold privately.

Artnet News reported that this fall's NY auctions being held in a frenzy this week could top the $1 billion mark in sales, higher than last year's fall season, though spring season sales totaled $1.6 billion.

Why? Because that piece of artwork, called "Salvator Mundi", is credited to Leonardo da Vinci.

Christie's declined to comment on the controversy and had valued the painting pre-sale at $100 million. Long-known to have existed, and long-sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now.

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