The Russian Billionaire Behind Christie's Controversial $450M Leonardo
17 November, 2017, 01:40 | Author: Gary Shelton
A rare painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci of Christ holding a crystal orb has sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at a NY auction. This came after more than six years of painstaking research and inquiry to document the painting's authenticity.
"It was process that began shortly after the work was discovered - heavily veiled with overpaints, long mistaken for a copy - in a small, regional auction in the United States in 2005".
The contest for the masterpiece was eventually reduced to just two bidders, which saw the price reach more than double the previous record for a painting, set by Picasso's "Les Femmes D'Alger", which sold for $179.4 million in May 2015.
Jussi Pylkkanen, Christie's president, served as the auctioneer for the battle that lasted just under twenty minutes. Prior to that, it was consigned to a 1958 sale at Sotheby's where it sold for £45.
The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million (152 million euros), for Pablo Picasso's painting "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in NY.
Dated to around 1500, the work sold after 19 minutes of frenzied bidding - an incongruous Old Master in Christie's evening postwar and contemporary sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of global billionaire art collectors.
There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. It is also wonderful for an Old Master to be at the centre of such attention. "This is the most important old master painting to have been sold at auction in my lifetime".
At a packed post-sale press conference Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti praised the "incredible teamwork" that led to the historic result for the Leonardo.
This, despite the fact that the provenance of the painting is disputed, many experts believing one of da Vinci's students completed the painting rather than the master himself. That is the magic of his work'.
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With much of public-facing art world firmly turning its back on the Trumps, it's yet another example of the fraught, high-stakes interests at play. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one's mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them - both the "Mona Lisa" and "Salvator Mundi" are ideal examples of this. The previous record for an Old Master painting was $US76.7 million for Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens in 2002. It was, said Cerutti, 'a great moment for Christie's and a great moment for the art market'.
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