Record-smashing Da Vinci work

Top News | Nov 17, 2017
A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record US$450 million (HK$3.51 billion) at auction in New York, breaking records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

The painting, Salvator Mundi - Latin for Savior of the World - is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Da Vinci known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie's, which did not reveal the buyer.

The painting was exhibited in Hong Kong from October 13 to 16 at Christie's office in Central, drawing more than 4,000 visitors.

It was sold by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for US$127.5 million in a private sale that is the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time," said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's.

The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been US$179 million for Pablo Picasso's painting Women of Algiers (Version O) in May 2015, also at Christie's in New York.

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been US$300 million for Willem de Kooning's painting Interchange, sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin.

The bidding for Salvator Mundi opened at US$75 million and ran for 19 minutes. People in the auction gallery cheered when the hammer came down on the final bid. The record sale price of US$450 million includes the buyer's premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house.

The 66-centimeter-tall painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.

Its path from Da Vinci's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a Da Vinci disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The painting was sold again in 1958 for 45 pounds (HK$463) and then was acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than US$10,000. The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity.


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