Leonardo da Vinci’s long-lost painting, named the “Savior of the World” was very recently sold for an incredible sum of $450,312,500 on Wednesday at auction – that’s nearly half a billion dollars! This price, which also includes a buyer’s premium, makes it “the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction.”
The previous record for the most expensive painting ever sold at an auction was a paltry $179,364,992 for Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger”. The highest price previously paid at auction for a da Vinci piece was in 2001 for his “Horse and Rider” which went for $11,481,865.
The bidding for the “Savior of the World” (“Salvator Mundi”), coordinated out of Christie’s New York office and had lasted a little less than 20 minutes with two of the final bidders battling it out. The bids jumped from $370 million to $400 million and then to the final astronomical price.
The identity of the winning bidder remains unknown at this time.
“Savior of the World” is one of some 16 known surviving paintings — including the “Mona Lisa” — by da Vinci, the master of the Italian Renaissance. The other of these paintings are scattered throughout the world’s museums.
Billed by the auction house as “The Last da Vinci”, the painting had spent centuries in obscurity until it was rediscovered in 2005 and underwent a six-year restoration and verification multi-process. The small piece depicts Jesus raising his right hand in a gesture of blessing and holding a crystal orb, meant to represent the world, in his left.
Over time, the painting has attracted a lot of scrutinies and inevitably, a lawsuit.
But in the weeks that were leading up to the auction, some 27,000 people, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Alex Rodriguez, Patti Smith and Jennifer Lopez, flooded into viewing halls in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York for a chance to glimpse at the highly anticipated treasure.
Nina Doede was in awe when she saw the painting. “Standing in front of that painting was a spiritual experience. It was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes”, 65 year old Doede had said.
At auction, the painting was guaranteed to sell for at least $100 million which meant that the auction house would make up the difference if went for less.
Da Vinci had painted it in the early 1500s and it quickly went on to be an inspiration to a number of imitations. Over the years, art historians have identified about 20 of these copies but the original long seemed lost to history.
At one point, it was part of the royal collection of King Charles I of England. It had disappeared in 1763 for nearly a century and a half. In 1900, Sir Charles Robinson had purchased the painting for the Cook Collection in London. But by then, it was no longer credited to da Vinci but to his follower Bernardino Luini.
In 1958, the collection was auctioned off in pieces with “Salvator Mundi” going for a mere 45 British Pounds which is about $125 in today’s dollars.