Out of This World: Leonardo Painting Tops $450 Million at Auction

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November 15, 2017

A Leonardo painting has set an auction by quite a long way, selling for $450 million.

Christie's entertained bids from four bidders in the auction room and one on the phone for 19 minutes before the auction ended, with the anonymous phone bidder taking it.

The painting, Salvator Mundi, was created about the same time as the Mona Lisa, art historians believe, but had private owners for centuries before being rediscovered in 1900. Officials said that the price paid for the painting in a 1958 Christie's auction was $60. The painting was identified as Leonardo's work only in 2011.

The previous owner, Russian investor Dmitry Rybolovlev, had consented to exhibitions of the painting in Hong Kong, London, New York, and San Francisco before the auction. More than 27,000 people viewed the painting on the exhibition tour.

Rybolovlev said that he paid $127.5 million when he bought it from a Swiss dealer who had paid $80 million at a Sotheby's auction in 2011, soon after the painting was identified as a Leonardo.

Christie's had estimated a final sale price of $100 million.

The previous Christie's auction record was $181 million, for Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers, in 2015. The highest amount paid for a painting in a private sale is thought to be just more than $300 million, for Willem de Kooning's Interchange, also in 2015.

The painting is of Jesus. The English translation of the title is "Savior of the World."

Leonardo, the famed Renaissance Man who excelled at the arts and sciences and left a collection of detailed scientific notebooks, is known to have crafted few paintings that have survived; experts think that the number might be fewer than 20.

The last known Leonardo painting to be discovered was the Benois Madonna, in 1909; it is now on display at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg's famous museum.

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