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    Salvator Mundi – painted around 1500.

    That was the night that was at Christie’s in New York. Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi made auction history by selling for $450,312,500 million.  This stellar price totally obliterated any previous world record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction. The depiction of Christ as Saviour of the World had been estimated at $100 million. The price reflects the extreme rarity of paintings by Leonardo.  Fewer than 20 in existence are acknowledged as being from the artist’s own hand, and all apart from Salvator Mundi  are in museum collections.

    The inclusion of Salvator Mundi  in the landmark London National Gallery 2011-12 exhibition of Leonardo’s surviving paintings — the most complete display of such works ever held — sealed its acceptance as a fully autograph work by Leonardo da Vinci. This came after more than six years of painstaking research and inquiry to document the painting’s authenticity. It was process that began shortly after the work was discovered — heavily veiled with overpaints, long mistaken for a copy — in a small, regional auction in the United States in 2005. Prior to that, it was consigned to a 1958 sale at Sotheby’s where it sold for £45.

    The painting was first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I (1600-1649), and thought to have hung in the private chambers of Henrietta Maria – the wife of King Charles I – in her palace in Greenwich, and was later in the collection of Charles II. It was next recorded in a 1763 sale by Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, who put it into auction following the sale of what is now Buckingham Palace to the king. It then disappeared until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work attributed to Leonardo’s follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection. By this time, its authorship by Leonardo, origins and illustrious royal history had been forgotten, and Christ’s face and hair had been overpainted and obscured. In the dispersal of the Cook Collection, it was ultimately consigned to a sale at Sotheby’s in 1958 where it sold for £45.

    The previous record for the most expensive work of art at auction was held by Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)  which achieved $179,364,992.

    Christie’s Post War and Contemporary art evening sale totalled $785,942,250, including buyers premium. This was the second highest total for a various owner Post War and Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie’s.  There were 14 artists records for, among others, Adam Pendelton, Philippe Parreno, Kerry James Marshall, Vija Celmins, Lee Krasner, Hans Hofmann, William Baziotes, Julian Schnabel and Isamu Noguchi.

    UPDATE:  It was announced in December that the painting is destined for The Louvre in Abu Dhabi which opened its doors on November 8 this year.  It has been suggested that the work will be lent to other museums in the Middle East and Asia.

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