Da Vinci portrait smashes record sale

Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Christ, "Salvator Mundi," sold for a record-smashing US$450.3 million at Christie's.

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ, “Salvator Mundi,” sold for a record-smashing US$450.3 million at Christie’s, more than double the previous price for any work of art at auction.

The painting, only recently rediscovered, was the last da Vinci left in private hands and fetched more than four times Christie’s’ pre-sale estimate of about US$100 million. It beat a record set in May 2015 by Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes D’Alger,” which sold for US$179.4 million, and constituted more than half the sale’s total of US$785.9 million, which came in well above the roughly US$450 million pre-sale estimate.

Da Vinci portrait smashes record sale

Agents speak on their phones with their clients while bidding on at the auction of Leonardo de Vinci's "Salvator Mundi."

“Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World) was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted contest of nearly 20 minutes at the New York auction house.

The restored portrait, an ethereal depiction of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, is one of fewer than 20 paintings by the Renaissance artist known to still exist.

First recorded in the private collection of King Charles I, the work was auctioned in 1763 before vanishing until 1900, by which time Christ’s face and hair had been painted over. Sold at Sotheby’s to an American collector in 1958 for only 45 pounds (US$59.57), it again sold in 2005 as an overpainted copy of the masterpiece.

The new owner started the restoration process, and after six years of research it was authenticated as da Vinci’s more than 500-year-old masterpiece, which culminated in a high-profile exhibition at London’s National Gallery in 2011.

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