Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) was sold for $450.3 million at Christie’s in New York on Wednesday evening. The rare painting of Christ smashes world record, following 19 minutes of telephone bidding, and has become the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, despite lingering questions by some experts over its authenticity and condition.
The painting had a guaranteed pre-sale bid of at least $100 million.
The previous auction record held by Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger,” which sold for $179.4 million in 2015.
The painting is one of fewer than 20 authenticated works by the Italian genius.
It describes Jesus in Renaissance clothing, one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a crystal orb. It was compared with and found superior to, twenty other versions of Jesus Christ as Salvator Mundi.
The 26 inch tall by 18 inch wide oil painting, dating back to 1506 and 1513, was commissioned by Louis XII of France. Since the late 18th century the artwork had been presumed lost.
In 1958 when the rare painting reappeared at an auction, it was mistaken for a copy and sold for £45 ($59). In 2005 it was sold for less than $10,000 to group of art dealers, that included Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters, due to its poor condition.
The painting was then painstakingly restored and authenticated as a painting by Leonardo da Vinci.