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A painting by Leonardo da Vinci entitled 'Salvator Mundi' auctioned in New York on November 15, at Christies on October 24, 2017 in London, England.
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1. A work of genius: Salvator Mundi, Latin for savior of the world, is a painting by Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which is believed to date back to around 1500. It is said to have been brought to England by Princess Henrietta Maria, future wife of Charles I. A 1651 inventory lists a “piece of Christ done by Leonardo” in her possessions, although scholar Margaret Dalivalle believes the painting could have been in the London home of the Duke of Hamilton.
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2. Renaissance era: The 26-inch haunting oil-on-panel painting depicts a half-length figure of Christ as savior of the world, facing front and dressed in Renaissance-era robes. In his painting, da Vinci (pictured) presents Christ as he is characterised in the Gospel of John 4:14. Christ gazes fixedly at the spectator, lightly bearded with auburn ringlets, holding a crystal sphere in his left hand and offering benediction with his right.
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3. Mysterious history: Salvator Mundi was at one time believed to have been destroyed. The painting disappeared from 1763 until 1900, when it was bought by Sir Charles Robinson as a work by Bernardino Luini, a follower of da Vinci. It next appeared at a Sotheby’s in England in 1958 where it sold for £45 – about $125 at the time. It then disappeared again until it was bought at a small US auction house in 2005.
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4. Record sale: On November 25, 2017, Salvator Mundi smashed artwork auction records when it was sold at a Christie’s auction for $450.3m. A Saudi prince is believed to have purchased the 500-year-old painting on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The previous world record for a painting sold at an auction was Picasso’s ‘Les Femmes d’Alger’, which sold for $179.3m in 2015.
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5. The greatest?: Hailed as the greatest artistic rediscovery of the last 100 years, an audience of almost 1,000 art collectors, dealers, advisors, journalists and onlookers packed into the main auction room at Rockefeller Centre, with many thousands tuning in via live stream. Since its sale, almost 30,000 people flocked to Christie’s exhibitions of the painting in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York.