The Last Leonardo by Ben Lewis review – secrets of the world’s most expensive painting


This post is by Charles Nicholl from Books | The Guardian


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How much of the famous Salvator Mundi did Leonardo paint? And where is the $450m picture now?

In November 2011, a small Renaissance painting known as the Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”) went on show at the National Gallery. It was a compelling, moody, somewhat odd picture: a half-length figure of Christ with ringlets of auburn hair, holding a transparent crystal orb. Even more compelling was the label, describing it as a newly discovered work by Leonardo da Vinci.

This attribution, at the upper end of the art world’s Richter scale, was controversial for various reasons, not least because – contrary to National Gallery policy – it radically enhanced the market value of a privately owned artwork. Its owners were at this point mysterious: an American “consortium” was mentioned. They were, in fact, two mid-table New York dealers, Robert Simon and Alex Parish, who had bought it in 2005 ...