Last pri­vately held Da Vinci ex­pected to fetch $100 mil­lion at auc­tion

The Witness - - NEWS -

NEW YORK — The last pri­vately­owned Leonardo da Vinci paint­ing and one of fewer than 20 by the Re­nais­sance artist known to still ex­ist is hit­ting the auc­tion block, Christie’s an­nounced yes­ter­day.

Sal­va­tor Mundi, an ethe­real por­trait of Je­sus Christ that dates to about 1500, is ex­pected to sell for about $100 mil­lion (R1,3 bil­lion) at Christie’s in Novem­ber, mak­ing it among the most highly­val­ued works ever to be sold at auc­tion.

“This is truly the Holy Grail of art re­dis­cov­er­ies,” said Alan Win­ter­mute, Christie’s se­nior spe­cial­ist for Old Master paint­ings, ex­plain­ing that the por­trait, some­times called the “male Mona

Lisa” had long been thought to have been lost or de­stroyed.

The por­trait de­picts Christ in vivid blue and crim­son robes hold­ing a crys­tal orb.

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, which Win­ter­mute said was “quite com­mon” prac­tice.

Sold at Sotheby’s to an Amer­i­can col­lec­tor in 1958 for £45, it again sold in 2005 as an over­painted copy of the mas­ter­work, he said.

The new owner started the restora­tion process, and after some six years of re­search it was au­then­ti­cated as Da Vinci’s more­than 500­year­old masterpiece, which cul­mi­nated in a high­pro­file ex­hi­bi­tion at Lon­don’s Na­tional Gallery in 2011.

The auc­tion house did not iden­tify the seller, a Euro­pean pri­vate col­lec­tor who ac­quired the work after its re­dis­cov­ery in 2005 and lengthy restora­tion. The paint­ing stands as the first dis­cov­ery of a Da Vinci paint­ing since 1909.

Sal­va­tor Mundi will be sold at Christie’s in New York at its Novem­ber 15 sale of post­war and con­tem­po­rary art fol­low­ing pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tions in Hong Kong, Lon­don and San Fran­cisco.

“We felt that of­fer­ing this paint­ing within that con­text is a tes­ta­ment to the en­dur­ing rel­e­vance of this pic­ture,” said Loic Gouzer, chair­per­son of Christie’s post­war and con­tem­po­rary art di­vi­sion.

Speak­ing to its $100 mil­lion es­ti­mate, Win­ter­mute re­flected: “There has never been any­thing like it sold, and so the mar­ket will de­cide.” The same sale at Christie’s will fea­ture Andy Warhol’s mon­u­men­tal Sixty Last Sup­pers — a piece from one of the pop artist’s fi­nal se­ries be­fore his death in 1987. The 32­foot, mul­ti­ple­im­age work is es­ti­mated to fetch $50 mil­lion.

— Reuters.

PHOTO: AP

Se­cu­rity guards open a door to re­veal Sal­va­tor Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci dur­ing a news conference at Christie’s in New York yes­ter­day. The piece, which was painted around 1500, is one of fewer than 20 Da Vinci paint­ings known to ex­ist. After pub­lic ex­hi­bi­tions around the world, the auc­tion is sched­uled to take place on Novem­ber 15.

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