Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Highs (Published 2017) (2022)

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    (Video) How Leonardo da Vinci Changed the World

By Robin Pogrebin and Scott Reyburn

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(Video) Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi Discussed by Alastair Sooke & Christie’s Specialists

After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed.

There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, “It’s an historic moment; we’ll wait.”

Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francois de Poortere, Christie’s head of old master paintings.

[ Read our critic’s take: It’s no Mona Lisa ]

The price is all the more remarkable at a time when the old masters market is contracting, because of limited supply and collectors’ penchant for contemporary art.

And to critics, the astronomical sale attests to something else — the degree to which salesmanship has come to drive and dominate the conversation about art and its value. Some art experts pointed to the painting’s damaged condition and its questionable authenticity.

“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” said Todd Levin, a New York art adviser.

ImageLeonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Highs (Published 2017) (2)

(Video) Martin Kemp, Behind the Scenes of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi

Christie’s marketing campaign was perhaps unprecedented in the art world; it was the first time the auction house went so far as to enlist an outside agency to advertise the work. Christie’s also released a video that included top executives pitching the painting to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s called the work “the Last da Vinci,” the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection (some 15 others are in museums).

“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” said Alan Hobart, director of the Pyms Gallery in London, who has acquired museum-quality artworks across a range of historical periods for the British businessman and collector Graham Kirkham. “This is going to be the future.”

There was a palpable air of anticipation at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters as the art market’s major players filed into the sales room. The capacity crowd included top dealers like Larry Gagosian, David Zwirner and Marc Payot of Hauser & Wirth. Major collectors had traveled here for the sale, among them Eli Broad and Michael Ovitz from Los Angeles; Martin Margulies from Miami; and Stefan Edlis from Chicago. Christie’s had produced special red paddles for those bidding on the Leonardo, and many of its specialists taking bids on the phone wore elegant black.

Earlier, 27,000 people had lined up at pre-auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York to glimpse the painting of Christ as “Savior of the World.” Members of the public — indeed, even many cognoscenti — cared little if at all whether the painting might have been executed in part by studio assistants; whether Leonardo had actually made the work himself; or how much of the canvas had been repainted and restored. They just wanted to see a masterwork that dates from about 1500 and was rediscovered in 2005.

“There is extraordinary consensus it is by Leonardo,” said Nicholas Hall, the former co-chairman of old master paintings at Christie’s, who now runs his own Manhattan gallery. “This is the most important old master painting to have been sold at auction in my lifetime.”

That is the kind of name-brand appeal that Christie’s was presumably banking on by placing the painting in its high-profile contemporary art sale, rather than in its less sexy annual old master auction, where it technically belongs. To some extent, the auction house succeeded with the painting even before the sale, having secured a guaranteed $100 million bid from an unidentified third party. It is the 12th artwork to break the $100 million mark at auction, and a new high for any old master at auction, surpassing Rubens’s “Massacre of the Innocents,” which sold for $76.7 million in 2002 (or more than $105 million, adjusted for inflation).

(Video) Rediscovering Leonardo's Salvator Mundi

But many art experts argue that Christie’s used marketing window dressing to mask the baggage that comes with the Leonardo, from its compromised condition to its complicated buying history and said that the auction house put the artwork in a contemporary sale to circumvent the scrutiny of old masters experts, many of whom have questioned the painting’s authenticity and condition.

“The composition doesn’t come from Leonardo,” said Jacques Franck, a Paris-based art historian and Leonardo specialist. “He preferred twisted movement. It’s a good studio work with a little Leonardo at best, and it’s very damaged.”

“It’s been called ‘the male Mona Lisa,’” he said, “but it doesn’t look like it at all.” Mr. Franck said he has examined the Mona Lisa out of its frame five times.

Luke Syson, curator of the 2011 National Gallery exhibition in London that featured the painting, said in his catalog essay that “the picture has suffered.” While both hands are well preserved, he said, the painting was “aggressively over cleaned,” resulting in abrasion of the whole surface, “especially in the face and hair of Christ.”

Christie’s maintains that it was upfront about the much-restored, damaged condition of the oil-on-panel, which shows Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crystal orb.

But Christie’s was also slow to release an official condition report and its authenticity warranty on the Leonardo runs out in five years, as it does on all lots bought at its auctions, according to the small print in the back of its sale catalog.

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

The artwork has been the subject of legal disputes and amassed a price history that ranges from less than $10,000 in 2005, when it was spotted at an estate auction, to $200 million when it was first offered for sale by a consortium of three dealers in 2012. But no institution besides the Dallas Museum of Art, which in 2012 made an undisclosed offer on the painting, showed public interest in buying it. Finally, in 2013, Sotheby’s sold it privately for $80 million to Yves Bouvier, a Swiss art dealer and businessman. Soon afterward, he sold it for $127.5 million, to the family trust of the Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E. Rybolovlev. Mr. Rybolovlev’s family trust was the seller on Wednesday night.

There was speculation that Liu Yiqian, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder with his wife of the Long Museum in Shanghai, may have been among the bidders. In recent years, the former taxi-driver-turned-power collector has become known for his splashy, record-breaking art purchases, including an Amedeo Modigliani nude painting for $170.4 million at a Christie’s auction in 2015. But in a message sent to a reporter via WeChat, a Chinese messaging app, Mr. Liu said he was not among the bidders for the Leonardo.

On Thursday morning, soon after the final sale was announced, Mr. Liu posted a message on his WeChat social media feed. “Da Vinci’s Savior sold for 400 million USD, congratulations to the buyer,” he wrote. “Feeling kind of defeated right now.”

FAQs

How much did Da Vinci's Mundi sell for at auction in 2017 making it the most expensive painting sold at auction? ›

Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold for $450 million to a Saudi prince in 2017 . . . and now its whereabouts are unknown.

How much did the Da Vinci painting sell for? ›

The painting was then sold to the Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for US$127.5 million.

Who bought Salvator Mundi for $450 million? ›

The Salvator Mundi was purchased in New York in November 2017 for $450m by a little-known Saudi prince, who was reportedly acting as a proxy to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Who bought Salvator Mundi for $400 million? ›

But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

Who bought Salvator Mundi in 2017? ›

The Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450m at Christie's as a fully authenticated Leonardo, has been downgraded by curators at the Prado. It was bought in November 2017 by the Saudi culture minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah, apparently for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Who owns the world's most expensive painting? ›

At an auction held at Christie's New York in 2016 during a contemporary art event, Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci turned into the most expensive painting ever sold, selling for $450 million at the end of a nineteen-minute bidding war. The winning bidder would later be revealed to be Saudi Arabia's Prince.

Can I buy the Mona Lisa? ›

Truly priceless, the painting cannot be bought or sold according to French heritage law. As part of the Louvre collection, "Mona Lisa" belongs to the public, and by popular agreement, their hearts belong to her.

How much is a Mona Lisa worth? ›

However, another conflicting report claims that back in 1962, the painting's price was assessed at $100 million. Taking inflation into account, it would make its value about $900 million as of 2021.

How much was the Mona Lisa sold for? ›

The Mona Lisa is one of the most valuable paintings in the world. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest-known painting insurance valuation in history at US$100 million in 1962 (equivalent to $870 million in 2021).
...
Mona Lisa
Dimensions77 cm × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in)
LocationLouvre, Paris
6 more rows

Who owns the male Mona Lisa? ›

It works; the painting is purchased for a record $400 million by Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, and now allegedly sits on his super yacht.

Is the Salvator Mundi real or fake? ›

Between 2007 and 2010, Leonardo experts from around the world studied Salvator Mundi in hopes of determining its authenticity. According to Christie's, these scholars reached a “broad consensus” that the work was a genuine da Vinci—“the single original painting from which the many copies and student versions depend.”

How much is the Mona Lisa worth 2022? ›

Mona Lisa ($860 Million)

While the price tag associated with it is hard to calculate, considering it is deemed priceless; the estimated cost for the Mona Lisa price is approximately $860 Million.

What does Salvator Mundi mean in English? ›

Much attention has focused on whether the extensively restored painting can be considered a Leonardo original at all, and one of the biggest questions concerns the crystal orb that Christ holds, which symbolizes the earth and is a key element of any composition featuring the “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the ...

Who owns the Last Supper painting? ›

One, by Giampietrino, is in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the other, by Cesare da Sesto, is installed at the Church of St. Ambrogio in Ponte Capriasca, Switzerland.

How wealthy is the Saudi royal family? ›

$1.4 trillion

Who Stole the Mona Lisa? ›

Vincenzo Peruggia (8 October 1881 – 8 October 1925) was an Italian museum worker, artist, and thief, most famous for stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris on 21 August 1911. A police photograph of Vincenzo Peruggia in 1909, two years before the theft.

Is the Salvator Mundi missing? ›

As well as becoming the most expensive painting in history, going for $450m (£326m) at auction, Salvator Mundi was denounced by many as a fake and subsequently vanished from view. The painting is now the subject of The Lost Leonardo, a documentary by Andreas Koefoed that opens in cinemas this week.

Who bought the lost da Vinci? ›

The artwork goes from art restorer and Renaissance painting specialist Dianne Modestini's hands, to the National Gallery's picture rails for the 2011 retrospective dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci in London – the event officialized the link between the work and its author – and then into Russian oligarch Dmitry ...

What's the most expensive paint color? ›

Google "the most expensive pigment" and you'll find that Lapis Lazuli is believed to be the most expensive pigment ever created. It was pricier than its weight in gold.

What is the most expensive food in the world? ›

Beluga caviar

Iranian Beluga caviar is officially the world's most expensive – a kilo will set you back 20,000 pounds. If you're up for a splurge, a 30g tin from The Truffle Man costs a whopping $157.

What's the most expensive thing in the world? ›

1. History Supreme Yacht — $4.5 Billion. The History Supreme yacht is not the largest in the world.

What Leonardo da Vinci painting is the most expensive ever sold? ›

Five years after its sales record for an amount of $450 million, the Salvator Mundi has not yet finished to unleash passions. Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, the painting has become the most expensive one in history at Christie's auction sale.

What auction house sold the Salvator Mundi? ›

The painting, called “Salvator Mundi,” Italian for “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie's auction house, which didn't immediately identify the buyer.

Why Salvator Mundi painting is so expensive? ›

This could be attributed to specific reasons, mainly it depicting Christ in the Renaissance theme and also it probably being the last work by Leonardo. Also, there are only less than twenty paintings of da Vinci known, and this particular being the only one that remained in someone's possession.

Why is Salvator Mundi controversial? ›

The attribution continues to be a subject of debate among scholars and critics. Those who question the painting's attribution to Leonardo not only consider the depiction of Jesus as having feeble features, but they also describe the head-on composition as stiff and unlike Leonardo's characteristic twisting poses.

How much is the Mona Lisa worth 2022? ›

Mona Lisa ($860 Million)

While the price tag associated with it is hard to calculate, considering it is deemed priceless; the estimated cost for the Mona Lisa price is approximately $860 Million.

What is the most expensive painting in the world 2022? ›

How much is Les Femmes d'Alger version O worth in 2022? Considering the inflation, this famous artwork will be valued at $205.2 million in 2022. “Version O” was the most expensive painting ever sold at auction until it was surpassed in November 2017 by Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi.

What is the most expensive NFT? ›

Sale details: The most famous NFT sale (and the most expensive NFT sale to date) was Beeple's Everydays: The First 5000 Days for $69.3 million.

Who Stole the Mona Lisa? ›

Vincenzo Peruggia (8 October 1881 – 8 October 1925) was an Italian museum worker, artist, and thief, most famous for stealing the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris on 21 August 1911. A police photograph of Vincenzo Peruggia in 1909, two years before the theft.

How much was the Mona Lisa sold for? ›

The Mona Lisa is one of the most valuable paintings in the world. It holds the Guinness World Record for the highest-known painting insurance valuation in history at US$100 million in 1962 (equivalent to $870 million in 2021).
...
Mona Lisa
Dimensions77 cm × 53 cm (30 in × 21 in)
LocationLouvre, Paris
6 more rows

How much is Mona Lisa worth? ›

However, another conflicting report claims that back in 1962, the painting's price was assessed at $100 million. Taking inflation into account, it would make its value about $900 million as of 2021.

Is Mona Lisa or Salvator Mundi more expensive? ›

For long, it has been known to us that Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" is the most expensive painting in the world. But in reality, it is not. The honour for the most expensive painting belongs to “Salvator Mundi”.

What does Salvator Mundi mean in English? ›

Much attention has focused on whether the extensively restored painting can be considered a Leonardo original at all, and one of the biggest questions concerns the crystal orb that Christ holds, which symbolizes the earth and is a key element of any composition featuring the “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the ...

Is Salvator Mundi real or fake? ›

Between 2007 and 2010, Leonardo experts from around the world studied Salvator Mundi in hopes of determining its authenticity. According to Christie's, these scholars reached a “broad consensus” that the work was a genuine da Vinci—“the single original painting from which the many copies and student versions depend.”

Did Da Vinci paint Jesus? ›

The Salvator Mundi (c. 1499-1510) painting has become one of the most mysterious and investigated pieces of art in the world and is subject to scientific, political, and cultural controversies.

Where is the Salvator Mundi now? ›

Acquired by Hubert, Marquis de Ganay in 1939, it was sold at Sotheby's in 1999 and is now in an anonymous private collection. Mozo argues that the skilled workshop artist who painted the Ganay "Salvator Mundi" was also responsible for the Prado's early copy of the "Mona Lisa" (1507-16).

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