Leonardo's record painting: Salvatori Mundi


“Salvatori Mundi is the painting of the most iconic person in the world, created by the most important artist of all time”.

With this phrase Loic Gouzer opened the auction at Christie’s on Nov. 16th in New York. It started with a base of 75 million dollars and it took just 20 minutes for a buyer on the phone, which turned out to be Saudi Prince Bader, to get it for 450 million. A new record in the art world for a painting thought to be destroyed, till it became known that it belonged to a private collector.
It's an oil painting on wood of Christ as Saviour of the World, looking straight to the observer, wearing a blue and red tunic. He is holding a crystal ball in his left hand and raises his right one, blessing us. His face is serene and indecipherable, as a male version of the Gioconda and a portrait of Jesus as a human being. He is surrounded by mist, due to Leonardo's characteristic sfumato. The artwork also presents a perfect symmetry, because the artist used complex calculations based in Renaissance's auric proportion.
The painting dates from 1500 and was first recorded a hundred years later, as part of King Charles I  Royal Collection. It is believed it was placed in the private chambers of his wife, Henrietta María. In 1763 it was sold to the Duke of Buckingham and years later it was auctioned when the British palace had new owners. Nothing was known of its whereabouts till 1900 when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as an artwork done by one of Leonardo's apprentices, Bernardino Luini. In 1958 it was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 45 pounds. Fifty years passed till, in 2005, the owners explained that they have bought it for 10.000 dollars in strange circumstances. In 2011 it was officially attributed to Leonardo and displayed at the National Gallery in London. It is said that in 2013 Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought it for 127 million dollars in a private sale. 
The authenticity of the artwork still raises doubts. Some experts question that Leonardo's skills can not be seen in the crystal ball. It represents, according to Christianity, Jesus' domain on the world. But the artist, having been an expert on optical effects, has not painted the image that should be reflected on the surface of the crystal. Plus, the wood in which the artwork was painted was attacked by worms and broken in halves, all of which seriously damaged the original work. The following restorations made it impossible to see how it was originally done.
Nonetheless the painting emanates Leonardo's aura and the Universe seems to have align itself to have this all happen near Christmas celebrations.

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Liliana Wrobel

Production & Translation

Carla Mitrani