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Picking The Picture… Working On Art Work

The world’s most expensive painting was auctioned for USD 450 million a year ago! However, an Oxford University researcher has expressed doubt over identity of its painter.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi or Saviour of the World is basically a portrait of Jesus that is popularly known as the Last Leonardo. According to the researchers, this is the last big work of the Italian polymath of the Renaissance. However, the Oxford researcher’s claim casts doubt on whether it was Leonardo’s creation! The debate has prompted the Abu Dhabi branch of Louvre Museum to reschedule its exhibition.

Leonardo da Vinci

History suggests that Leonardo might have created this masterpiece for Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany. Most probably, it was commissioned around 1500 AD, shortly after Louis conquered the Duchy of Milan and took control of Genoa in the Second Italian War. Like his other works, the painter created a number of drafts for this painting. Although all the drafts were found later, the original work had gone missing in the mid-18th Century. It was rediscovered in 2005 and was acquired for less than USD 10,000 at an auction in New Orleans by a consortium of art dealers. The consortium included Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters.
It was a creation of the Renaissance era, but no one thought that it was Leonardo’s work, as it was heavily over-painted. As a result, it looked like a copy of the original work. Even, the consortium believed there was a possibility that the low quality mess (with its excessive over-painting) might actually be the long missing Leonardo original. They spent the next few years having the painting restored by Dianne Dwyer Modestini at New York University and authenticated as a painting by Leonardo. Later in 2011-12, the painting was exhibited at the National Gallery as a work by Leonardo da Vinci.

The ‘Salvator Mundi’ was sold at auction at Christie’s in New York on November 15, 2017 for USD 450,312,500 – a new record price for an artwork (hammer price USD 400 million plus USD 50.3 million in fees). Initially, the purchaser was identified as Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdullah. In December 2017, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Prince Badr was an intermediary for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was the real buyer. The Saudi Prince planned to arrange a special exhibition of the painting at Abu Dhabi Louvre and it was to be displayed from September 18.
Matthew Landers is one of the art critics who are of the opinion that it is not Leonardo’s creation. Landers, who penned a book on the Italian artist’s works in 2006, is ready to discuss the issue after the publication of the second edition of his book in October. Speaking at a press conference in Oxford, he recently said that the Salvator Mundi was created by Leonardo’s associates. According to Landers, Bernardino Luini – the North Italian painter from Leonardo’s circle – might be one of them.

Bernardino Luini

Luini (1480/82-June 1532) had worked together with Leonardo for many years. His The Madonna and the Child was sold for a record USD 16.9 million at a Sotheby’s sale of Old Master works in 2011. Landers believes that a number of artists created this masterpiece together, as such a joint venture was common in Italy in the 16th Century.
The debate will go on….. For now, art lovers want to see Leonardo’s Jesus – in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his right hand raised and two fingers extended, while holding a transparent rock crystal orb in his left hand, signalling his role as saviour of the world – at Abu Dhabi Louvre.

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