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, renowned professor Martin Kemp shared that he had received an invitation to Saudi Arabia to analyze Leonardo da Vinci's iconic artwork, Salvator Mundi. The examination would be conducted in collaboration with security agencies.

"If it helps to bring Salvator Mundi to light, then I am ready," he continued, acknowledging his hesitations. Martin Kemp, the esteemed author of Living with Leonardo and a distinguished art history professor emeritus at the University of Oxford, has made significant contributions to the field. With a deep understanding of the subject matter, he played a crucial role in establishing the authenticity of the painting as Leonardo's, just in time for its auction.

The news sparked anticipation for the potential return of Salvator Mundi. In 2017, following a momentous auction, the painting vanished under mysterious circumstances, solidifying its status as the most valuable masterpiece in existence.

In a move that echoes the meticulous documentation of historical events, Saudi Prince Bader has revealed that the acquired painting will find its place of honor at the esteemed Abu Dhabi Museum. Unfortunately, the image is not visible. No explanation was provided by the museum.

Based on a Times investigation, the painting was taken to Zurich, Switzerland in the autumn of 2018 for assessment by an insurance company. Unfortunately, this activity was unexpectedly canceled. It is anticipated that the painting will be showcased at the renowned Louvre museum in Paris, France, next year. The museum has recently announced an indefinite postponement. The staff here stated that determining the current location of the famous painting is not possible.

According to Bloomberg, the painting was stored 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, which was being built, was officially opened. "It is unjust to deprive art enthusiasts worldwide of the opportunity to behold this extraordinary masterpiece," expressed Dianne Modestini, a distinguished professor of Fine Arts at New York University, renowned for her expertise in restoring paintings.

According to Artnews, the painting was created between 1506 and 1513 under the patronage of King Louis XII of France. This piece was part of King Charles I's collection during the 17th century and adorned the private room of his wife, Queen Henrietta Maria. The painting eventually came into the possession of their son, King Charles II.

In 1763, Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of Duke of Buckingham John Sheffield, decided to auction off the painting after selling Buckingham Palace to King George III. The painting is encased in a lavish gold leaf frame.

After disappearing for a staggering 140 years, the work resurfaced when collector Francis Cook acquired it from Sir John Charles Robinson in 1900. It is believed that the painting, which has suffered damage, was created by Bernardino Luini, a pupil of the renowned Leonardo da Vinci. This painting is a significant piece in the Cook collection, which finds its home at the esteemed Doughty House gallery in Richmond, London. In 1958, the work was sold at Sotheby's auction for £45. In 2005, a painting was sold at a New Orleans auction gallery for $1,175 (28 million dong) to a group of American collectors.

This piece was featured in the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 2011. It was later sold privately to painting broker Yves Bouvier for $80 million by Sotheby's. Later on, Bouvier managed to sell it to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a staggering $127.5 million (VND 3.06 trillion). In 2017, the painting was acquired by Prince Bader bin Abdullah during a Christie's New York session for an astounding $450.3 million (VND 10.8 trillion), setting a new record. According to the Wall Street Journal, the painting's owner, as per US intelligence, was Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Instead, Bader merely observed the auction.

Alan Wintermute, a senior expert at Christie's specializing in pre-19th century painting, draws a captivating parallel between this work and the exhilarating discovery of a new planet. "The Salvator Mundi painting holds immense significance among the masterpieces created by painters prior to the nineteenth century." "It feels as though I have stepped into a realm of wonder and fascination that was previously beyond reach," he elaborated.

Who is the author of the painting?

In the documentary The Lost Leonardo, businessman Robert Simon recounts his acquisition of the artwork in 2005. At the time, he was aware of numerous copies of the piece displayed in museums worldwide, yet the true original remained a mystery.

Based on historical records, it has been reported that in 2006, Simon presented the painting to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for examination. The paintings suffered extensive damage and were obscured by numerous layers of paint during that period. "The site exudes an air of mystery and intrigue, with its crumbling structures and eerie atmosphere." Throughout history, there have been multiple instances where individuals with limited knowledge have attempted to restore it. Using artificial resin, the restorer successfully repaired the object that had become discolored over time. Handled with great care. "Upon removing the excess paint, the person elucidated how the original paint was unveiled," they explained. It was Dianne Dwyer Modestini, an art restorer and professor at New York University, who eventually undertook the restoration of the painting.

According to an interview with Artnews in 2011, Robert Simon confidently asserted that through meticulous research and thorough examination of signatures, materials, and drawing styles, experts have definitively determined that the Salvator Mundi painting is indeed the authentic work of Leonardo da Vinci.

In 2011, the painting was exhibited at the prestigious National Gallery in London. Director Nicholas Penny invited four esteemed experts in Leonardo's work to preview the exhibition before it opened. It was widely regarded as the artist's greatest work. According to Martin Kemp, who was present at the time, he immediately recognized the painting as the artist's original. "Leonardo was there," he said. "The painting had an intriguing enigma surrounding it," he described.

Some individuals question the authenticity of this artwork, doubting its attribution to a renowned artist. As per the Prado Museum in Spain, the paintings were created by Leonardo's students, with Leonardo overseeing their execution. As per Michael Daley, Director of ArtWatchUK, there is no indication that the artist ever engaged in creating a drawing of Salvator Mundi. There have been rumors circulating that suggest the unfortunate fate of Salvator Mundi, with claims that it has been destroyed and is no longer in existence.

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