Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi painting, which has been hailed as one of the biggest artistic discoveries of the 21st century, sold at Christie's on November 15 for an astounding $450.3 million. And now we know where it's going.
"Congratulations," the auction house captioned a photo of the painting
While the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened with 23 permanent galleries and more than 600 exhibits on November 11, is the lucky recipient of the painting, it wasn't the buyer, according to the New York Times. The newspaper reports that Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, "a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth," purchased the painting.
The work was expected to sell for around $100 million, but the bidding quickly surpassed that number at the evening sale last month. It broke the record any work of art sold at auction, taking the top spot from Picasso's Women of Algiers, which sold for $179.4 million back in May 2015, the New York Times reports. The bidding lasted 19 minutes, with four people bidding via telephone and one potential buyer in the auction room at Christie's.
Before the sale, the painting went on a world tour. An estimated 27,000 people lined up to see it in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and New York, according to the Times.Salvator Mundi was the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands prior to the auction.
Salvator Mundi, which was painted around the year 1500, was presumed to have been destroyed at some point before it was discovered in 2005. It was the first time since 1909 a Leonardo da Vinci painting was discovered in private hands. The painting portrays Jesus as the savior of the world, holding a crystal orb and raising his right hand in benediction. It is one of fewer than 20 known paintings by da Vinci.
The painting hung in the private chambers of the wife of Britain's King Charles I
The painting's provenance then gets murky and there are no records of it until it was bought by Sir Charles Robinson in 1900. He thought it was painted by Bernardino Luini, a follower of da Vinci, and someone had painted over Jesus’s hair and face. Because nobody knew it was a da Vinci, it later sold in 1958 for a mere £45 (around $500 in today’s dollars).
In 2005, it was rediscovered, and researchers took six years to prove it was by da Vinci; in 2011, it was formally presented to the public at the National Gallery in London.
"Salvator Mundi was painted in the same timeframe as the Mona Lisa, and they bear a patent compositional likeness," Loic Gouzer, chairman of Christie’s post-war and contemporary art department, said in a press release. "Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one’s mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them—both the Mona Lisa and Salvator Mundi are perfect examples of this. No one will ever be able to fully grasp the wonder of Leonardo’s paintings, just as no one will ever be able to fully know the origins of the universe."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.