The Mystery of Salvator Mundi - The Most Expensive Painting Of All Time
The Mystery of Salvator Mundi - The Most Expensive Painting Of All Time

Salvator Mundi has been lost for centuries

In October 2022, famous professor Martin Kemp said he was invited to Saudi Arabia to examine Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece Salvator Mundi, with the participation of security agencies.

"There are reasons why I hesitate but if it helps to bring Salvator Mundi to light then I am ready," he said. Martin Kemp is the author of Living with Leonardo and professor emeritus of Art History at the University of Oxford. He played a key role in confirming the painting was Leonardo's before it was put up for auction.

The news raised hopes of the return of Salvator Mundi. After a historic auction that made the painting the most expensive masterpiece in the world in 2017, the work "mysteriously disappeared".

After purchasing the painting, Prince Bader of Saudi Arabia announced that it would be displayed at the Abu Dhabi Museum. However, the picture does not appear. The museum also did not explain the reason.

According to a Times investigation, the painting was brought to Zurich, Switzerland in the fall of 2018 for assessment by an insurance company. However, this activity was canceled for no reason. In 2019, the Louvre museum (Paris, France) is expected to hold an exhibition of the painting. Later, the museum announced an indefinite postponement. The staff here said "it is not possible to determine the current location of the famous painting".

Bloomberg then reported that the painting was kept on Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's yacht off the coast of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, until the cultural center in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia under construction, was inaugurated. . Dianne Modestini, a professor of Fine Arts at New York University, who restored paintings, said: "It is unfair to art lovers around the world to hide such a masterpiece."

According to Artnews, the painting was painted between 1506 and 1513 under the patronage of King Louis XII of France. In the 17th century, the work was in the collection of King Charles I in England and hung in the private room of his wife - Queen Henrietta Maria. Later, the painting belonged to their son - King Charles II.

The painting's next appearance was in 1763, when Charles Herbert Sheffield - the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham John Sheffield - ordered the art to be auctioned off after selling Buckingham Palace to King George III. The painting is placed in a gilded frame.

The work then disappeared for 140 years, until 1900, when collector Francis Cook bought it from Sir John Charles Robinson. The painting has been damaged and is believed to be by the artist Bernardino Luini - a student of Leonardo. The painting is included in the Cook collection at the Doughty House gallery in Richmond, London. In 1958, the work sold for £45 at Sotheby's auction. In 2005, the painting was purchased by a group of American collectors at the New Orleans auction gallery for $ 1,175 (28 million dong).

In 2011, the work was featured in the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London. Two years later, Sotheby's sold it privately to painting broker Yves Bouvier for $80 million. Then, Bouvier handed over to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $ 127.5 million (VND 3.06 trillion). During the session of Christie's New York in 2017, the painting was bought by Prince Bader bin Abdullah for a record $ 450.3 million (VND 10.8 trillion). The Wall Street Journal later quoted US intelligence as saying that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the owner of the painting. Bader just stood in the auction instead.

Alan Wintermute, Christie's senior expert on pre-19th century painting, compares the work to the discovery of a new planet. "The Salvator Mundi painting is the holy grail in the works of master painters before the 19th century. It's like a mystical dream, unattainable until now," he said.

Who is the author of the painting?

In the documentary The Lost Leonardo, businessman Robert Simon said that when he bought the work in 2005, he knew there were dozens of copies hanging in museums around the world, while the original was unknown.

A source close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art said Simon brought the painting to the museum in 2006 to have it inspected. At that time, the paintings were badly damaged and covered with many layers of paint. "It's ruins, dark and gloomy. It has been restored many times in the past by ignorant people. The restorer applied artificial resin to it, which had turned gray and had to be repaired. removed carefully. When they removed the excess paint, what was revealed was the original paint," the person said. Later, the painting was restored by Dianne Dwyer Modestini - an art restorer, professor at New York University.

On Artnews in 2011, Robert Simon affirmed that after many studies and tests from signatures, materials, and drawing styles, experts have come to a consensus that the Salvator Mundi painting is the original painted by Leonardo da Vinci.

In 2011, the painting was presented at the National Gallery in London. Before the exhibition, director Nicholas Penny invited four Leonardo experts to enjoy. All considered this to be the masterpiece of the artist. On Artinfo, Martin Kemp - one of the people present at that time - said that as soon as he saw the painting, he determined it was the artist's original. "Leonardo was there. The painting had a strange mystery," he said.

While many people think that this is not a painting by a famous artist. The Prado Museum in Spain claims the paintings were painted by Leonardo's students, he only supervised the execution. Michael Daley - Director of ArtWatchUK - said that there is no evidence that the artist was ever involved in drawing on the subject of Salvator Mundi. Some rumors claim that Salvator Mundi has been destroyed and no longer exists in the world.

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