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Leonardo da Vinci painting could fetch $100 million at auction

11 October 2017, 05:41 | Myron Mathis

Leonardo da Vinci painting could fetch $100 million at auction

Leonardo da Vinci painting could fetch $100 million at auction

Christie's in NY on Tuesday unveiled what it called "the biggest discovery of the 21st century" - the haunting, mesmerising painting of Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in benediction.

The painting is to travel to Hong Kong, San Francisco and London before it is sold by Christie's in NY on 15 November. "Long-known to have existed, and long-sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now", says Alan Wintermute, Christie's senior specialist of old master paintings. So it was a thrilling rediscovery, and I think people felt that it appeared like a bolt from the blue.

The painting hung in the private chambers of the wife of Britain's King Charles I, and exchanged hands several times before 1763. Charles left enormous debts that had to be repaid, so parliament chose to sell off his collections. It was later in the collection of their son, Charles II.

Christie's will show Salvator Mundi in upcoming exhibitions in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY, marking the first opportunities for the public in Asia and the Americas to see this exceptional and iconic work of art. And for a cool (estimated) $100 million, someone can snag it for the ultimate statement wall piece.

The painting's provenance then gets murky and there are no records of it until it was bought by Sir Charles Robinson in 1900.

Following the dispersal of the Cook Collection, Salvator Mundi was ultimately consigned to a sale at Sotheby's in 1958 where it sold for £45. It disappeared once again for almost 50 years, emerging in 2005 when it was purchased from an American estate at a small regional auction house. It was rediscovered in 2005 and exhibited at London's National Gallery in 2011.

Da Vinci's piece was painted around 1500, and depicts Jesus Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right hand in benediction. The buyer was Swiss "Freeports" baron Yves Bouvier, who then "flipped" it to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a sum reported to be over $120m.

As for the rationale for placing the work in the postwar and contemporary context?

Excitement and anticipation filled the air this morning at Christie's NY as select members of the press gathered in a private gallery to witness the auction houses' first unveiling of a mysterious, unprecedented masterpiece. "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 flawless examples of this".

Of course, also bear in mind: This is a sales pitch by a salesperson, one representing a house that just vastly overestimated the price of a Francis Bacon painting at auction in London last week.

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