By Jessica Loomes
Leonardo Da Vinci’s lost Salvator Mundi has caught worldwide attention yet again as its exhibition date is indefinitely postponed by the United Arab Emirates capital’s department of culture and tourism. The decision made by the department fuels even more doubt about the painting’s authenticity and purchase.
Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting was sold for a whopping 450 Million USD to a mystery buyer, in a historic auction at Christie’s in New York in late 2017. The world’s most expensive painting is rumored to be the possession of a Saudi Prince, Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al Saud; however, the identity of the mystery buyer remains undisclosed.
Salvator Mundi is a depiction of Christ as the “Saviour of the World”. The painting is exceptionally rare, being one of only 20 artworks recognized as Da Vinci originals. As a result, the Salvator Mundi has been crowned one of the greatest artistic rediscoveries in the last 100 years.
The painting was initially scheduled to be displayed at the Louvre, Abu Dhabi on the 18 September 2018. No reasons have been given for the postponement; however, speculation suggests the museum may be waiting for it’s 1-year anniversary on November 11th.
Shortly after the painting was purchased, the buyer donated it to the Louvre Abu Dhabi for display. Mohammad Al Mubarak, chairman of the UAE’s Department of Cultural and Tourism has said that the historic painting depicts Abu Dhabi’s mission to promote a message of acceptance, and openness. “It is an opportunity for Abu Dhabi’s residents and visitors from around the world to engage with a rare and iconic work of great cultural significance at Louvre Abu Dhabi.” He added that this long lost masterpiece is now “a gift to the world.
The piece was painted by Da Vinci for the French King Louis the XII and his consort Anne of Brittany soon after the French conquest of Milan in 1500, according to the catalogue published by Christie’s. The painting then emerged in the 17th century in England, as the property of English King Charles I at the height of the civil war.
When French princess Henrietta Maria married King Charles I, she may have brought the picture with her to her Greenwich apartments where it remained as royal property until the King’s execution in 1649.
The painting then reappeared in 1985 when it was sold for a mere 45 pounds at Sotheby’s, its true origins mistaken under heavy overpaints. The painting was eventually recognized as a da Vinci original in 2005 at a regional auction in the United States.
The providence of the painting is being questioned
Previously it was thought that the Salvator Mundi was hanging in the Henrietta Maria’s apartment but new research conducted by art historian, Jeremy Wood suggests that the painting was in Duke of Hamilton’s home in Chelsea at that time.
Wood is not the first expert to question the Salvator Mundi’s origins. There are over 20 painted variations of the original painting by Leonardo’s pupils and followers which makes the original even more difficult to verify. Despite questions about the paintings providence, it is clear, by the value placed upon the painting and its rich history, that the Salvator Mundi is a very important piece of art from the Renaissance period.