Rest of Asia

World's priciest painting not a full da Vinci, documentary claims

Filed on April 7, 2021
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen signalling the final auction bid for Leonardo da Vinci’s 'Salvator Mundi' at Christie's New York in 2017. Photo: AFP

Scientific analysis of the painting concludes that the master only 'contributed' to the painting.

A French documentary has cast fresh doubts over the world's most expensive painting, the 'Salvator Mundi' credited to Leonardo da Vinci, revealing a resulting diplomatic tussle between France and its current owner.

The painting of Jesus Christ, nicknamed the 'male Mona Lisa', was sold at a 2017 Christies auction in New York for a record $450 million. But there have long been questions over whether it was entirely the work of da Vinci.

Now a documentary, 'The Savior for Sale' by filmmaker Antoine Vitkine, to be premiered on French TV next week, sets out to reveal what was going on behind the scenes.

In the film, senior officials from President Emmanuel Macron's government, appearing under pseudonyms, confirm that the Louvre's scientific analysis of the painting concluded that while it was produced in da Vinci's workshop, the master himself only "contributed" to the painting.

The painting was initially bought in 2005 for just $1,175 by a New York art dealer and restored in the United States.

Several British experts authenticated the painting as a long-lost da Vinci and it was presented as such at London's National Gallery in 2011 before being sold to a Russian oligarch for $127.5 million two years later.

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