Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi or Savior of the World, one of fewer than 20 Da Vinci paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master's hand, was sold for a whopping $450.3 million on Wednesday at an auction at Christie's, shattering the previous record sum paid for a painting nearly three times over.
The painting was only recently rediscovered and is believed to be the last Da Vinci painting left in a private collector's hand. Expected to fetch around $100 million by Christie's, it far surpassed any pre-sale estimates by getting auctioned off for more than four times the amount.
The previous record for most expensive artwork to be auctioned off stood with Les Femmes d'Alger (Women of Algiers) Version O, the final painting in the series created by Pablo Picasso between 1954-1955. It was brought by Qatari prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani at Christie's New York in May 2015 for a $179.4 million.
The final price of $450.3 million constituted for more than half the auction's total sales of $785.9 million, with other notable sales including Andy Warhol's Sixty Last Suppers, which also exceeded any pre-auction estimates and ultimately fetched $60.9 million. Two paintings by American Cy Twombly were successes as well, selling for $46.4 million and $27.3 million.
Salvator Mundi was reportedly purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a heated contest that lasted around 20 minutes. Bidding began at $100 million and there were at least six bidders, with each new bid seeing increments of more than $15 million. The final bid was for $400 million, with fees bringing the full price to the quoted $450.3 million. As the hammer went down, whooping, cheers, and applause could be heard from the packed Christie's auction room.
Salvator Mundi is believed to have been painted sometime after 1505 and was initially thought to be the work of one of da Vinci's assistants. The painting depicts Jesus Christ with one hand raised, the other holding a glass sphere.
It first belonged to the private collection of King Charles I and was auctioned in 1763, vanishing before making a reappearance nearly 150 years later in 1900. It was sold in 1958 at Sotheby's to an American collector for just £45. Alexander Parish then picked up the painting at an estate sale in 2005 for $10,000 and had it restored and authenticated as da Vinci's 500-year-old masterpiece.
The painting has had quite a few facelifts; Christ's face and hair have been painted over; according to the BBC, "Its walnut panel base has been described as "worm-tunneled" and at some point, it seems to have been split in half - and efforts to restore it resulted in abrasions."
While Christie's refused to identify the seller, it is widely believed to have belonged to 50-year-old Russian fertilizer oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev, who in the past has been in the center of an art-world scandal involving Paris-based dealer, Yves Bouvier. Rybolovlev had acquired the masterpiece from Bouvier for $127 million, who himself had bought it from Sotheby's in a private sale in 2013 for about $50 million less.
The auction house dubbed the painting as 'the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th Century,' with Alan Wintermute, Christie’s senior specialist for Old Master paintings calling it 'the holy grail of old masters.' Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen remarked that the sale had been his 'ultimate privilege,' saying: "It’s the zenith of my career as an auctioneer. They’ll never be another painting that I shall sell for more than this painting tonight."
It's going to be a very long time, if ever, that the newly set record will be surpassed. In honor of the record-breaking sale, here are the ten most expensive pieces of art to be auctioned:
#10 Boy with a pipe - Pablo Picasso
Picasso's "Boy with a Pipe" was sold for $104.2 million at Sotheby's in New York in May 2004.
#9 Walking Man I - Alberto Giacometti
Alberto Giacometti's sculpture "Walking Man I" was sold for $104.3 million at Sotheby's in London in February 2010.
#8 Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) - Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol's Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) was sold for $105.4 million at Sotheby's in New York in November 2013.
#7 Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur - Pablo Picasso
Picasso's "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur" ("Nude, Green Leaves and Bust") lured $106.4 million at Christie's in New York in May 2010.
#6 Untitled - Jean-Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michael Basquiat's 1982 "Untitled" was sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby's in New York May 2017.
#5 The Scream - Edvard Munch
Edvard Munch's pastel "The Scream," fetched $119.9 million at Sotheby's in New York in 2012.
#4 Three Studies of Lucian Freud - Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon's triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" was sold for $142.4 million at Christie's in New York in 2013.
#3 Nu Couche - Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani's "Nu couche" of a reclining naked woman drew $170.4 million at Christie's in New York in November 2015.
#2 The Women of Algiers (Version O) - Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso's "The Women of Algiers (Version O)" fetched $179.4 million at Christie's in New York in May 2015.
#1 Salvator Mundi - Leonardo Da Vinci
Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" or "Savior of the World," one of fewer than 20 Da Vinci paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master's hand, was sold for $450.3 million at Christie's on Wednesday, shattering any previous record many times over.
(With inputs from AFP)
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