Hubert Burda Media

Da Vinci hits the auction for US$100 Million

Fewer than 20 authentic paintings by Leonardo da Vinci himself are known to exist today.

The last remaining privately owned Da Vinci painting piece is due for auction at Christie’s New York at the upcoming Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale. The special lot will start with a pre-sale estimate of approximately US$100 million. Titled Salvator Mundi, which means “Saviour of the World’, the painting is an oil on walnut panel dating from the 16th century. In the masterpiece, the half-length figure of Christ holds a crystal orb in his left hand, as his right is raised in benediction.

The painting was only very recently discovered in 2005, and for years it was generally regarded as lost or destroyed. It took about six years of painstaking research and enquiry to confirm its authenticity. Dianne Modestini, the conservator who worked on restoring the work around 2007, recalls the moments she removed the heavy overpaint that masked the actual painting, as she started to recognize the original, masterful work by Da Vinci himself.

“I went home and didn’t know if I was crazy,” says Modestini in an official statement. “My hands were shaking.”

Salvator Mundi was subsequently revealed in 2011 at London’s National Gallery. The painting is currently on tour around the world, stopping by Hong Kong, San Francisco and London, before returning to New York for the auction.

“Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” says Loic Gouzer, chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s in New York in a statement to the press. “Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries. We felt that offering this painting within the context of our Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale is a testament to the enduring relevance of this picture.”