What Remains Of The Master’s Hand?

Salvator Mundi

Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)

Oil on panel

About 1500

Source: Christie’s (website)

URL: https://www.christies.com/features/The-last-da-Vinci-Salvator-Mundi-8598-3.aspx (Accessed September 12, 2018)



“Why is a Leonardo in a Modern and Contemporary auction?” Before I could say, “Yeah! Why?” he answered, “Because 90 percent of it was painted in the last 50 years.”

(Saltz, 2017)


The “Savior of the World” is the title of the painting that goes down in history in November 2017 as the most expensive artwork ever sold. The auction house Christie’s scored nearly half a billion US dollars at the auction for a picture that was traded in 1958 for only 45 pounds. The spectacular rediscovery and time-consuming authentication of the image as an original da Vinci is documented  on the auction house website. For more than 6 years, well-known experts examined the work of art before finally concluding that this was an original from Leonardo’s hand.


Critical voices, including the American art critic Jerry Saltz, have cast doubt on the authenticity of this work. This is not just about authorship – the work cannot really be meaningfully integrated into Da Vinci’s Œu­v­re – but rather how much of Leonardo’s original artwork is left. The picture was restored and painted over too often and too comprehensively to speak of a genuine Da Vinci. The claim is a cliché of how to imagine a masterpiece from Leonardo’s pen. The commercially successful auction of this “newly discovered old master” expresses a system in which money matters more than authenticity.



Anonymous. “Salvator Mundi – The Rediscovery of a Masterpiece: Chronology, Conservation, and Authentication.” Christie’s, n. d.. https://www.christies.com/features/Salvator-Mundi-timeline-8644-3.aspx.


Saltz, Jerry. “Christie’s Is Selling This Painting for $100 Million. They Say It’s by Leonardo. I Have Doubts. Big Doubts.” Vulture, November 14, 2017. http://www.vulture.com/2017/11/christies-says-this-painting-is-by-leonardo-i-doubt-it.html.


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