da Vinci work 'Salvator Mundi' shatters auction record at US$400m

World | 16 Nov 2017 11:33 am

A New York auction house official says the sale of a rare painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci for a record US$450 million "an honor that comes around once in a lifetime.'' 

The painting shows Christ holding a crystal orb and is called "Salvator Mundi,'' Latin for "Savior of the World.'' It sold at Christie's auction house Wednesday. 

Christie's co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art Loic Gouzer describes the artwork as a "painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time.''  (pictured, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Salvator Mundi, painted circa 1500. Oil on walnut panel. Panel dimensions: 25 13/16 x 17 15/16 inches top; 17¾ inches bottom. Painted image dimensions: 15? x 17½ inches).

The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been US$179 million, for Pablo Picasso's painting "Women of Algiers (Version O)'' in May 2015, also at Christie's in New York. 

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been US$300 million for the private sale of Willem de Kooning's painting "Interchange'' in September 2015. 

In his painting, Leonardo presents Christ as he is characterised in the Gospel of John 4:14: ‘And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the World.’ Christ gazes fixedly at the spectator, lightly bearded with auburn ringlets, holding a crystal sphere in his left hand and offering benediction with his right. As Martin Kemp has noted (in an unpublished essay), ‘...The Saviour literally holds the well-being of the world and its inhabitants in the palm of his hand.’ The format follows the precedent of the ‘Christ Pantocrator’ (‘Ruler of All’ or ‘Sustainer of the World’) from Eastern Orthodox traditions, commonplace in religious imagery dating to Byzantine mosaics, although Leonardo’s Christ is portrayed as resolutely human — unusual at this time — lacking as he does a crown or a halo, Christie's says.

Scholars believe the Leonardo painting is one of few works by Leonardo to survive the centuries since his death and the only one in private hands. -AP/The Standard

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