Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million, Shattering Auction Records

Erica Roy
November 17, 2017

Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector.

Christie's declined to identify the buyer, other than to confirm that bids came from "every part of the world".

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 worldwide billionaire art collectors.

This, despite the fact that the provenance of the painting is disputed, many experts believing one of da Vinci's students completed the painting rather than the master himself.

But many art experts argue that Christie's used marketing window dressing to mask the baggage that comes with the Leonardo, from its compromised condition to its complicated buying history and said that the auction house put the artwork in a contemporary sale to circumvent the scrutiny of old masters experts, many of whom have questioned the painting's authenticity and condition.

A portrait of Christ by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci has shattered all previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately, fetching a whopping $450.3 million on Wednesday at Christie's in NY.

Art critics cast doubt on authenticity of Leonardo da Vinci's record-breaking artwork

The painting depicts a half-length figure of Jesus, holding a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right in benediction. "The excitement from the public for this work of art has been overwhelming and hugely heartening".

Christie's has exhibited the painting in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY in the weeks prior to Wednesday's sale. Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in NY, called the painting "spectacular".

"Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie's co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francois de Poortere, Christie's head of old master paintings".

Andy Warhol's monumental 1986 work "Sixty Last Suppers" based on da Vinci's work, sold for $US60,875,000, while two works by fellow American painter Cy Twombly added more than $US73 million to the kitty, with Untitled, 2005, selling for $US46,437,500 and Sunset (1957) selling for $US27,312,500.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience", she said. The painting is expected to sell at auction for $100 million on Wednesday.

Luke Syson, curator of the 2011 National Gallery exhibition in London that featured the painting, said in his catalog essay that "the picture has suffered". "Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now", Wintermute said.

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