New York: A 500-year-old painting believed to be by Leonardo da Vinci sold for $450.3 million in New York on Wednesday, blazing a new world record for the most expensive work of art sold at auction, Christie’s said.
“Salvator Mundi” or “Savior of the World,” which depicts Jesus Christ, more than doubled the previous record of $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso’s “The Women of Algiers (Version O)” in New York in 2015.
Lost for years only to resurface at a regional auction in 2005, it is one of fewer than 20 Da Vinci paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master’s own hand, according to Christie’s.
All the others are held in museum or institutional collections.
Wednesday’s price was all the more extraordinary given that the oil on panel fetched only 45 British pounds in 1958, at the time believed to have been a copy, before subsequently disappearing for years.
Dated to around 1500, the work sold after 19 minutes of frenzied bidding — an incongruous Old Master in Christie’s evening postwar and contemporary sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of international billionaire art collectors.
Christie’s declined to identify the buyer, other than to confirm that bids came from “every part of the world.”
The price could call into question a legal suit lodged by its Russian seller, who accused a Swiss art dealer in Monaco of allegedly overcharging him when he bought the work for $127.5 million in 2013.
The value of private sales are rarely known, but a Willem de Kooning and a Gauguin were previously thought the most expensive, sold in 2015 separately for $300 million each, according to US media reports.
– Controversy –
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen opened bidding at $75 million, pulling in 45 bids from clients on the phone and in the room.
Whoops and applause rippled through the packed room as bids quickly escalated into unchartered territory, coming down to two head-to-head rivals on the telephone.
Pylkkanen eventually hammered the painting at $450 million. The final price came to $450.3 million including the buyer’s premium.
Even discounting any commission that is a tidy profit for Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of soccer club AS Monaco, who last bought the painting in 2013.
The oligarch has accused Yves Bouvier of conning him out of hundreds of million dollars by overcharging him on a string of deals, including on the Da Vinci, and pocketing the difference.
Bouvier bought the work at Sotheby’s for $80 million in 2013. He resold it within days to the Russian tycoon, for $127.5 million.