Written by Staff Writer
Photos courtesy Sotheby’s / Courtesy Valens Galleries/CNN
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450.3 million at Sotheby’s in New York Thursday, setting an auction record for a living artist and topping previous highs set by pre-war and contemporary art.
Da Vinci’s oil painting of Christ, thought to be only the second known to exist and described as “a bombshell of a discovery,” is of a Renaissance artist’s version of the scene in the Last Supper — the Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph holding the cross and Christ flanked by two disciples.
His full-length portrait fetched the result of Sotheby’s 10-month authentication process.
The auction price for Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” is the second highest ever for a living artist. Christie’s / Courtesy Valens Galleries
Sotheby’s did not disclose the reserve prices it would sell for, or the sum it would have demanded had it been bought by the private collector in the end. As such, it could not have sold for $450 million, although a number of estimates gave a range of $100-200 million.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of art history at New York University and chairman of Sotheby’s North American auction house, told CNN Wednesday night that Leonardo’s portrait could have fetched “$80 million or more.”
However, Christie’s later said its own estimate for the painting — which also sold to a collector on the night — was around $200 million.
The Sotheby’s sale was set to take place shortly after 8 p.m. EST, when the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov reached an agreement with his legal team to pay $9.3 million in restitution to the government of Georgia for the stolen Muscovite painting “Burial at Elmlawn.”
The Sotheby’s sale was set to take place shortly after 8 p.m. EST, when the Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov reached an agreement with his legal team to pay $9.3 million in restitution to the government of Georgia for the stolen Muscovite painting “Burial at Elmlawn.” CNN
Christie’s announcement of the sale took place earlier in the day, which was live streamed on social media for the first time, and its spokeswoman Nino Perrotta said the auction house was confident the work would sell in excess of $200 million.
According to the auction house, the painting was purchased for $80,000 in 1958, a work valued at $25,000-50,000 now. It also had a surprise to offer: a watercolor, called “Salvator Mundi in his Bed at the Birth of Christ” completed by Da Vinci near the same time. The work is attributed to the artist but unknown to him.