Currently, the most expensive painting ever sold is Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ dated to 1499–1510.
‘Salvator Mundi’ is Latin for “Savior of the World'' and features Jesus in an anachronistic blue robe that was in fashion during the Renaissance. Jesus makes the sign of the cross with his right hand and holds a transparent, non refracting crystal orb in his left, which symbolizes having the celestial sphere of the heavens in his hands.
Approximately thirty copies and variations of the work by students and followers of Leonardo have been identified. The original painting by Leonardo himself was thought to have been destroyed or lost in around 1603. In 2005, a Salvator Mundi was acquired at the St. Charles Gallery auction house in New Orleans for less than $10,000. It was sold from the estate of a Baton Rouge businessman to a consortium including art experts on the old masters. The painting had been heavily overpainted and resembled a copy. Before restoration, it was described as "a wreck, dark and gloomy".
However, the consortium saw something different, and believed this seemingly poor quality copy might be the long lost original by Leonardo himself. They commissioned Dianne Dwyer Modestini at New York University to oversee the restoration. Upon removal of the overpainting at the start of the restoration, a stepped area of unevenness near Christ's face. It had been shaved down with a sharp object at some point during its lifetime and leveled with a mixture of gesso, paint, and glue.
This was a pivotal discovery because it implies that the artist had changed their mind and scraped off their initial artistic choice. Infrared photographs discovered a pentimento (earlier draft) of the painting. The blessing hand's thumb was originally in a straight position, rather than the final curved position. This confirmed that the original artist had reconsidered the position of the figure.
This evidence of the artist having second thoughts is what distinguished this piece as the original, rather than a copy. Other Leonardo paintings show that he often did many under sketches before applying paint and continued to explore his options even while painting, resulting in overlays of paint that would be visible to experts. An artist who is merely copying a piece of art wouldn’t have a change of heart and alter the composition in the middle of painting.
After a complete restoration, the work was officially authenticated as a genuine original by Leonardo and shown in worldwide exhibits featuring other authenticated paintings by the artist. Whether or not this is indeed the original painting is still disputed by other specialists, some of whom posit that he only contributed certain elements.
In May 2013, Swiss dealer Yves Bouvier purchased the painting for just over $75 million in a private sale brokered by Sotheby's, New York. The painting was then sold for $127.5 million to Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev, who sued Bouvier for defrauding him, though he then went on to sell the painting for a whopping $450.3 million in 2017, via auction by Christie's in New York, to Prince Badr bin Abdullah, setting a new record for most expensive painting ever sold at public auction. It was not displayed after that with exhibitions being cancelled last minute. The current location of the painting is unknown.
We can’t send you the original painting, if it even still exists, but we can send you a high quality giclée reproduction printed with faithful colors on archival cotton canvas! This mysterious painting is great for lovers of the Renaissance, of Jesus Christ, or perhaps lovers of intrigue.