Salvator Mundi is a painting of Christ as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), which has been attributed by some scholars as a work by Leonardo da Vinci since its rediscovery in 2005. This attribution has been rejected by other specialists. Long thought lost, it was restored and then exhibited in 2011. The painting shows Christ, in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his raised right hand and crossed fingers while holding a crystal sphere in his left hand. The painting was sold at auction by Christie’s in New York, on November 15, 2017, for US$450,312,500 making it the most expensive painting ever sold.
Leonardo da Vinci is believed to have begun the painting while under the patronage of Louis XII of France between 1506 and 1513.
It was apparently subsequently owned by Charles I of England and recorded in his art collection in 1649 before being auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham and Normanby in 1763. It next appeared in 1900, when it was purchased by a British collector, Francis Cook, 1st Viscount of Monserrate. The painting was damaged from previous restoration attempts, and its authorship unclear. Cook’s descendants sold it at auction in 1958 for £45.
In 2005, the painting was acquired by a consortium of art dealers that included Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters. It had been heavily overpainted so it looked like a copy, and was described as “a wreck, dark and gloomy”. It was then restored and authenticated as a painting by Leonardo. It was exhibited by London’s National Gallery during the Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan from November 2011 to February 2012. In 2013, the painting was sold to Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for US$127.5 million, via the Swiss dealer Yves Bouvier.
It was sold at auction at Christie’s in New York in November 2017 for US$450,312,500, a new record price for an artwork (hammer price $400 million plus $50.3 million in fees). The price was 250% higher than the price paid in 2013. The purchaser was not disclosed.