500-year-old da Vinci up for auction in NY

500-year-old da Vinci up for auction in NY

The painting, "Salvator Mundi", Latin for "Saviour of the World", is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands.

The previous auction record for an Old Master painting was held by Peter Paul Rubens, whose "The Massacre of the Innocents" sold for $76.5 million in 2002.The salesroom full of millionaires and billionaires included Point72 Asset Management's Steve Cohen; Blackstone Group LP's Tom Hill, who collects Old Master works and declined to comment; and philanthropist Eli Broad.'It's Wild' "Would you believe it?"

"'Salvator Mundi' is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time", said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie's.

If the painting is in fact a genuine da Vinci, Saltz said that it should never have been auctioned off to a private buyer in the first place. Original estimates had predicted bids of over $100 million for the piece. The bidding opened at $75 million and ran for 19 minutes. After previewing the painting last month, Christie's called the painting of Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in benediction as "the biggest discovery of the 21st century".

Its path from Leonardo's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth.

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The painting was first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I (1600-1649), and thought to have hung in the private chambers of Henrietta Maria - the wife of King Charles I - in her palace in Greenwich, and was later in the collection of Charles II. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

Speaking to ITV News, Sir Christopher confirmed the painting was then sold at auction in 1958 for just £45. They restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

Christie's said most scholars agree the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship. In 2011, it was accepted as a fully autograph work by Leonardo da Vinci and made its dramatic return to the public eye as part of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan at The National Gallery, London.

"Salvator Mundi" attracted crowds of visitors during pre-auction viewings in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.

"It was a moment when all the stars were aligned, and I think Leonardo would be very pleased", Jussi Pylkkänen, global president of Christie's, told Reuters after the sale. It's wonderful it's in NY.

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