A painting by Italian master Leonardo da Vinci has made it into the record books, after it was bought for a staggering $450.3m (£341m), including fees — making it the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. The Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) work was sold at Christies in New York on 15 November to an unidentified buyer following a tense bidding session.
The 26-inch-tall by 18-inch-wide oil painting features Jesus dressed in Renaissance-style clothing. He has one hand raised in blessing while the other holds a crystal orb.
Originally commissioned by Loius XII of France in the early 1500s, the work later went into the possession of Charles I of England around 1649 before being auctioned off in 1763. Very little is known of what happened to the painting until it resurfaced in 1900, when purchased by British collector, Francis Cook, 1st Viscount of Monserrate.
By then, many unsuccessful attempts had been made to restore it, making it hard to identify as a da Vinci original. In 1958 it was sold at auction for £45 ($60) in London.
After a proper restoration in the early 2000s it was sold to Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for$127.5m before Christies announced its sale in October. What makes the painting more valuable is the fact that it is one of less than 20 works by da Vinci currently in existence and the only one privately owned.
"It is every auctioneer's ambition to sell a Leonardo and likely the only chance I will ever have," Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie's Global President, said. "It's the pinnacle of my career so far. It is also wonderful for an Old Master to be at the centre of such attention. The excitement from the public for this work of art has been overwhelming and hugely heartening."
With its sale, Salvator Mundi has earned a place above the previous most expensive art work sold at auction — Pablo Picasso's 1955 Women of Algiers (Version O), which came with a final price tag of $179.4m.