Voices from Russia

Friday, 15 July 2011

The Find of the Century: “The Saviour of the World” from Leonardo

Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World)

Leonardo da Vinci



The Western media announced the greatest art find in the last hundred years…

This time, we’re not talking about another version of who served as a model for the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci or the secret signs that one can allegedly find in the pupils of the eyes of that painting. According to ARTnews, a painting surfaced in a private collection that many considered a lost work of Leonardo da Vinci. The first public exhibition of Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World) will occur at London’s National Gallery in November 2011. Whilst there’s very little information on this work and the circumstances surrounding its rediscovery, a monochrome photograph of it has seen widespread circulation. We do know that the painting, found about six years ago, is now owned by “a consortium of dealers”, including a renowned expert from New York, Robert Simon, who arranged an examination of the work carried out by art historians at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. After restorers removed layers of varnish from the painting, a legacy of previous (and, according to experts, rather unsuccessful) attempts at restoration, the experts acknowledged its authenticity. According to them, it was actually a rediscovered masterpiece of Leonardo, the documentary evidence for the existence of which isn’t in doubt.

We know that in 1506 that the French King, Louis XII, commissioned a painting named Salvator Mundi (The Saviour of the World) from Leonardo da Vinci, which the artist finished in 1513. Queen Marie, the wife of Louis XII, bequeathed the painting to a religious order, who received it after her death. In 1650, Henrietta Maria of France, the widow of the English King Charles I, executed by the Commonwealth in 1649, saw the picture, and she commissioned the artist Wenceslas Hollar to make an engraving of it for her collection. In the 19th century, with the dissolution of the monastery that housed the painting, Baron de Larenti, a gentleman from Paris, bought Leonardo’s masterpiece. It went through several owners until it ended in the collection of the Marquis de Ghana, where it was until recently. No one really knows the chain of circumstances by which the painting passed into the hands of the “consortium”. There are conflicting versions of what happened, and the degree of credibility attached to its attribution. Judging by the fact that the conclusions of the Metropolitan Museum experts agreed with one of the most world-renowned authorities on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Kemp of Oxford University, most believe that it’s truly a once-missing painting by Leonardo.

In many respects, Salvator Mundi is similar to Leonardo’s famous depiction of John the Baptist painted in the same period… the palette composition, the blending of the brushwork, even a tree portrayed on both works, are almost identical. At the same time, researchers carefully noted that it somewhat lacks the well-known softness of touch that’s characteristic of Leonardo’s paintings. Therefore, in fact, is this a true work of Leonardo? There’s no doubt that the artist actually painted a work entitled Salvator Mundi in 1513. Since the common belief is that about 75 percent of Leonardo’s work was lost, many people have the strong suspicion that this painting may very well be one of them. In the end, the world’s leading experts agreed that in the viewers of the November exhibition at its London venue will see an authentic picture of the great Leonardo, which means that the art world’s waiting for a real sensation. Moreover, Salvator Mundi is in private hands, which means that the owners can sell it. Experts say that its price could reach 200 million USD (5.63 billion Roubles. 141.6 billion Euros. 124 billion UK Pounds), making it the most expensive piece of art ever put up for public auction. You can be absolutely sure that Professor Silvano Vincenti, the detail-obsessed researcher that looked for the body of Lisa Gherardini, will pore over every detail of the recently discovered painting; he’ll probably find a secret code, or a similarity to the Mona Lisa.

5 July 2011

Armen Apresyan

Voice of Russia World Service



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