Leonardo da Vinci’s long lost portrait of Christ ‘Salvator Mundi’ has sold for a record-smashing $450.3 million (£342million) at Christie’s in New York – more than double the old mark for any work of art at auction.
The painting, which once sold for just $60 (£45) at auction because experts thought it was by one of his students, fetched more than four times over the Christie’s pre-sale estimate of about $100million (£76million) last night.
‘Salvator Mundi’ – Italian for ‘Savior of the World’ – was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted bidding war that stretched to nearly 20 minutes at the New York auction house.
It was more than twice the old auction record set by Pablo Picasso’s painting ‘Women of Algiers (Version O)’ (‘Les Femmes D’Alger) which sold for $179.4 million in May 2015, also at Christie’s in New York.
The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million for Willem de Kooning’s painting ‘Interchange,’ which was sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.
The oil on wood panel painting, Salvator Mundi, depicts Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand holding a globe.
Commissioned by Louis XII of France in 1506, it later ended up in possession of Charles I of England and following his execution it went to Charles II and it remained in London for 400 years.
It eventually ended up in the collection of Sir Francis Cook and in 1958 it was sold by Sotheby’s for just $60 after it was wrongly attributed to a student of Da Vinci called Giovanni Boltraffio.
Robert Simon Fine Art in New York, along with a consortium of art dealers, are thought to have acquired the painting at a clearance sale in 2004 for $10,000.
Simon and his partners flew in an international panel of art experts who assessed the work, which had been heavily overpainted, and gone dark and gloomy during years of neglect.
After it was cleaned up, the experts agreed it had not been done by the pupil, but the master himself, da Vinci, and went on display to the public at the National Gallery in London in 2011.