Da Vinci Buyer: The Collector Behind The World’s Most Expensive Painting

Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvatore Mundi

Speculation is rife following the $450.3m sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvatore Mundi’. The painting, sold at Christie’s New York salesroom this week has become the most expensive work of art sold at auction to date. This newsworthy event has prompted a worldwide search to find out who actually bought this controversial depiction of Christ holding a crystal orb.

Very few top echelon collectors have the buying power to purchase a painting valued at almost half a billion dollars.

There has been some talk that the painting was bought by hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who is best known for his purchase of major de Kooning and Jackson Pollock works. He spent over $500 million in the last few years and had loaned the modern masterworks to the Art Institute of Chicago. Griffin. Sources in the art world say the da Vinci was not to his taste.

Which brings us to Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton the founder of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. Thinking about it Da Vinci wouldn’t fit into the collection, so this rules her out.

Other thoughts have speculated billionaire Liu Yiqian, the Chinese collector who acquired a major Modigliani for $170 million in 2015. He has it on permanent display at the Long Museum which he privately owns in Shanghai. Liu announced on WeChat that he wasn’t the buyer. “Congratulations to the buyer. Feeling kind of defeated right now.”

The moment Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvatore Mundi hit the $400m mark
The moment Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvatore Mundi hit the $400m mark

It is unlikely that either the Abu Dhabi or Qatari royal families would spend $450.3m on a depiction of Christ. It could cause a revolution, despite the Al Nahyan Abu Dhabi Royal family recently opening the first outpost of the Louvre in the Middle East

Last but not least. The Getty Museum is still a possibility not to rule out. Others have named Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates as contenders. Bezos recently sold $1 billion worth of Amazon stock
Hope he paid his taxes first.

Salvatore Mundi 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. Salvator Mundi is next recorded in a 1763 sale by Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, who put it into auction following the sale of what is now Buckingham Palace to the king.

It then disappeared until 1900 when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work by Leonardo’s follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection, Doughty House, Richmond. By this time, its authorship by Leonardo, origins and illustrious royal history had been forgotten, and Christ’s face and hair were overpainted. In the dispersal of the Cook Collection, it was ultimately consigned to a sale at Sotheby’s in 1958 where it sold for £45. It disappeared once again for nearly 50 years, emerging in 2005 when it was purchased from an American estate at a small regional auction house. Its rediscovery was followed by six years of painstaking research and inquiry to document its authenticity with the world’s leading authorities on the works and career of da Vinci.

The work was sold to the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who purchased the da Vinci painting for $127.5 million in 2013. He sued the vendor who brokered the deal for overcharging him and now he has just sold it for $450.3 million. Despite selling the ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting for a world record price Rybolovlev has not withdrawn his lawsuit against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier. Hummm! That’s art biz…

2011, saw the dramatic public unveiling of Salvator Mundi (‘Savior of the World’) in the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, at The National Gallery, London.  The painting caused a worldwide media sensation, not always for the right reasons. The painting’s authenticity is still widely questioned by many experts, while the issue of overpainting, restoration and conservation will always be an underlying issue.


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