Salvator mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
By Kinjal Trivedi
Leonardo da Vinci was a well known painter during his time and has been extremely impactful in our modern times as well. His paintings, architecture, town planning, and sense of functional design has been influencing our modern designers as well as investors in a great way.
One of his paintings, Salvator Mundi was acquired by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Cultural Tourism for Louvre Abu Dhabi. It is currently owned by Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince. It is not known where the painting has been stored: best guess is the Prince’s luxury yacht or a storage in Switzerland.
This painting was auctioned for $450.3 million (almost Rs3,000 crore!) on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah.
Salvator Mundi was at once 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 Leonardo. It next appeared at a Sotheby’s in England in 1958 where it sold for £45 – about Rs 4500 at the time. It then disappeared again until it was bought at a small U.S. auction house in 2005.
But what makes this painting so fascinating by itself. First, it was painted with oil colors on a walnut panel so the paints will not fade easily if stored in the right temperature away from sunlight. The dimensions are: 45.4 cm × 65.6 cm (25.8 in ×19.2 in).
More than the subject painted, in those days the reason and the story behind why it was painted held more significance. Who commissioned the painting for which royalty and under what circumstances was it painted?
Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi may have been painted for Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany. It was probably commissioned around 1500, shortly after Louis conquered the Duchy of Milan and took control of Genoa in the Second Italian War.
Since November 2017, this expensive painting has had quite a few controversies.
Is it real or fake? Is it restored?
If the painting is restored, then how does it affect the valuation. Was the auction created in order to promote the crown prince or the Abu Dhabi Louvre?
Whatever the outcome, we know for sure that the painting and the painter gets more importance because of the story surrounding it.
Let’s take a look at the detailing:
Painted with oil on walnut wood. The subject matter is religious.
Christ gazes lovingly at the spectator facing front and dressed in Renaissance-era robes. In his painting, Leonardo presents Christ as he is characterised in the Gospel of John 4:14: ‘And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the World.’
The eyes are calm and peaceful. Auburn hair is tied in ringlets and the face is lightly bearded.
His smooth flawless skin with a slight smile. The right hand is signaling a cross and on his left hand there is an orb (frequently surmounted by a cross), known as a globus cruciger.
The form, shapes, lighting, color palette, detailing of the hair, eyes, reflection of the skin as well as the refraction of the orb is bringing the piece together in perfect harmony.
Salvator Mundi being the most expensive painting in the world as of today. Would you be interested in seeing it at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi just as Mona Lisa draws people from around the world to the Louvre in Paris?