Da Vinci notebook sells for over $5M

Da Vinci notebook sells for over $5M


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On December 12, 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci.

The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in a chest of papers belonging to Guglielmo della Porto, a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had studied Leonardo’s work. In 1717, Thomas Coke, the first earl of Leicester, bought the manuscript and installed it among his impressive collection of art at his family estate in England.

READ MORE: How Leonardo da Vinci's Surprising Family Roots May Have Influenced His Work

More than two centuries later, the notebook—by now known as the Leicester Codex—showed up on the auction block at Christie’s in London when the current Lord Coke was forced to sell it to cover inheritance taxes on the estate and art collection. In the days before the sale, art experts and the press speculated that the notebook would go for $7 to $20 million. In fact, the bidding started at $1.4 million and lasted less than two minutes, as Hammer and at least two or three other bidders competed to raise the price $100,000 at a time. The $5.12 million price tag was the highest ever paid for a manuscript at that time; a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only $2 million in 1978. “I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more,” Hammer said later. “There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this.” Lord Coke, on the other hand, was only “reasonably happy” with the sale; he claimed the proceeds would not be sufficient to cover the taxes he owed.

Hammer, the president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, renamed his prize the Hammer Codex and added it to his valuable collection of art. When Hammer died in 1990, he left the notebook and other works to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Several years later, the museum offered the manuscript for sale, claiming it was forced to take this action to cover legal costs incurred when the niece and sole heir of Hammer’s late wife, Frances, sued the estate claiming Hammer had cheated Frances out of her rightful share of his fortune. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder–soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft–at a New York auction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display.


Dec 12, 1980: Da Vinci Notebook Sells for Over 5 Million

On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci.

The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci’s favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in a chest of papers belonging to Guglielmo della Porto, a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had studied Leonardo’s work. In 1717, Thomas Coke, the first earl of Leicester, bought the manuscript and installed it among his impressive collection of art at his family estate in England.

More than two centuries later, the notebook–by now known as the Leicester Codex–showed up on the auction block at Christie’s in London when the current Lord Coke was forced to sell it to cover inheritance taxes on the estate and art collection. In the days before the sale, art experts and the press speculated that the notebook would go for $7 to $20 million. In fact, the bidding started at $1.4 million and lasted less than two minutes, as Hammer and at least two or three other bidders competed to raise the price $100,000 at a time. The $5.12 million price tag was the highest ever paid for a manuscript at that time a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only $2 million in 1978. “I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more,” Hammer said later. “There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this.” Lord Coke, on the other hand, was only “reasonably happy” with the sale he claimed the proceeds would not be sufficient to cover the taxes he owed.

Hammer, the president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, renamed his prize the Hammer Codex and added it to his valuable collection of art. When Hammer died in 1990, he left the notebook and other works to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Several years later, the museum offered the manuscript for sale, claiming it was forced to take this action to cover legal costs incurred when the niece and sole heir of Hammer’s late wife, Frances, sued the estate claiming Hammer had cheated Frances out of her rightful share of his fortune. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder–soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft–at a New York auction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display.


On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci. The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci &hellip

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (6 March 1475 – 18 February 1564), commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer. Despite making few forays beyond the arts, his versatility in the disciplines he took &hellip


Da Vinci notebook sells for over $5M - HISTORY

On this day in 1980, American oil tycoon Armand Hammer pays $5,126,000 at auction for a notebook containing writings by the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci.

The manuscript, written around 1508, was one of some 30 similar books da Vinci produced during his lifetime on a variety of subjects. It contained 72 loose pages featuring some 300 notes and detailed drawings, all relating to the common theme of water and how it moved. Experts have said that da Vinci drew on it to paint the background of his masterwork, the Mona Lisa. The text, written in brown ink and chalk, read from right to left, an example of da Vinci's favored mirror-writing technique. The painter Giuseppi Ghezzi discovered the notebook in 1690 in a chest of papers belonging to Guglielmo della Porto, a 16th-century Milanese sculptor who had studied Leonardo's work. In 1717, Thomas Coke, the first earl of Leicester, bought the manuscript and installed it among his impressive collection of art at his family estate in England.

More than two centuries later, the notebook--by now known as the Leicester Codex--showed up on the auction block at Christie's in London when the current Lord Coke was forced to sell it to cover inheritance taxes on the estate and art collection. In the days before the sale, art experts and the press speculated that the notebook would go for $7 to $20 million. In fact, the bidding started at $1.4 million and lasted less than two minutes, as Hammer and at least two or three other bidders competed to raise the price $100,000 at a time. The $5.12 million price tag was the highest ever paid for a manuscript at that time a copy of the legendary Gutenberg Bible had gone for only $2 million in 1978. "I’m very happy with the price. I expected to pay more," Hammer said later. "There is no work of art in the world I wanted more than this." Lord Coke, on the other hand, was only "reasonably happy" with the sale he claimed the proceeds would not be sufficient to cover the taxes he owed.

Hammer, the president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, renamed his prize the Hammer Codex and added it to his valuable collection of art. When Hammer died in 1990, he left the notebook and other works to the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Several years later, the museum offered the manuscript for sale, claiming it was forced to take this action to cover legal costs incurred when the niece and sole heir of Hammer's late wife, Frances, sued the estate claiming Hammer had cheated Frances out of her rightful share of his fortune. On November 11, 1994, the Hammer Codex was sold to an anonymous bidder--soon identified as Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft--at a New York auction for a new record high price of $30.8 million. Gates restored the title of Leicester Codex and has since loaned the manuscript to a number of museums for public display.


Despite these achievements, in his own day Leonardo wasn’t primarily known as a painter, was he, but as an architect—and even what we would today call a special effects guy. Unbraid these different strands of his life.

He was mainly, despite what he sometimes wished, a painter. He liked to think of himself as an engineer and architect, which he also did with great passion. But his first job was as a theatrical producer.

From that he learned how to do tricks with perspective because the stage in a theatre recedes faster and looks deeper than it is. Even a table onstage would be tilted slightly so you can see it, which is also what we see in “The Last Supper.” Likewise, on the stage, the theatrical gestures of the characters would be exaggerated, which is what you also see in “The Last Supper.

His theatrical production led him to mechanical props, like flying machines and a helicopter screw, which were designed to bring angels down from the rafters in some of the performances. Leonardo then blurred the line between fantasy and reality when he went on to try to create real flying machines that were engineering marvels! So, what he picked up in the theatre he brought both to his art and real-life engineering.


Contents

Commission and creation

The Last Supper measures 460 cm × 880 cm (180 in × 350 in) and covers an end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. The theme was a traditional one for refectories, although the room was not a refectory at the time that Leonardo painted it. The main church building was being completed (in 1498). Leonardo's patron, Ludovico Sforza, planned that the church should be remodeled as a family mausoleum, and to this end, changes were made, perhaps to plans by Bramante these plans were not fully carried out, and a smaller mortuary chapel was constructed, adjacent to the cloister. [3] The painting was commissioned by Sforza to decorate the wall of the mausoleum. The lunettes above the main painting, formed by the triple arched ceiling of the refectory, are painted with Sforza coats-of-arms. The opposite wall of the refectory is covered by the Crucifixion fresco by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, to which Leonardo added figures of the Sforza family in tempera these figures have deteriorated in much the same way as has The Last Supper. [4]

Leonardo worked on The Last Supper from about 1495 to 1498, but did not work continuously. The beginning date is not certain, as the archives of the convent for the period have been destroyed. A document dated 1497 indicates that the painting was nearly completed at that date. [5] One story goes that a prior from the monastery complained to Leonardo about its delay, enraging him. He wrote to the head of the monastery, explaining he had been struggling to find the perfect villainous face for Judas, and that if he could not find a face corresponding with what he had in mind, he would use the features of the prior who had complained. [6] [7]

In 1557, Gian Paolo Lomazzo wrote that Leonardo's friend Bernardo Zenale advised him to leave Christ's face unfinished, arguing that "it would be impossible to imagine faces lovelier or gentler than those of James the Greater or James the Less." Leonardo apparently took the advice. [8]

The painting as it appears on the refectory wall

Crucifixion by Giovanni Donato da Montorfano, 1495, opposite Leonardo's Last Supper

Medium

Leonardo, as a painter, favoured oil painting, a medium which allows the artist to work slowly and make changes with ease. Fresco painting does not facilitate either of these objectives. Leonardo also sought a greater luminosity and intensity of light and shade (chiaroscuro) than could be achieved with fresco. [9] Instead of painting with water-soluble paints onto wet plaster, laid freshly each day in sections, Leonardo painted The Last Supper on a wall sealed with a double layer of gesso, pitch, and mastic. [10] Then, borrowing from panel painting, he added an undercoat of white lead to enhance the brightness of the oil and tempera that was applied on top. This was a method that had been described previously by Cennino Cennini in the 14th century. However, Cennini described the technique as being more risky than fresco painting, and recommended the use of "a secco" painting (on dry plaster) for the final touches alone. [11]

Subject

The Last Supper portrays the reaction given by each apostle when Jesus said one of them would betray him. All twelve apostles have different reactions to the news, with various degrees of anger and shock. The apostles were identified by their names, using an unsigned, mid-sixteenth-century fresco copy of Leonardo's Cenacolo. [12] Before this, only Judas, Peter, John and Jesus had been positively identified. From left to right, according to the apostles' heads:

    , James, son of Alphaeus, and Andrew form a group of three all are surprised. , Peter, and John form another group of three. Judas is wearing red, blue, and green and is in shadow, looking withdrawn and taken aback by the sudden revelation of his plan. He is clutching a small bag, perhaps signifying the silver given to him as payment to betray Jesus, or perhaps a reference to his role as a treasurer. [13] He is also tipping over the salt cellar, which may be related to the near-Eastern expression to "betray the salt" meaning to betray one's master. He is the only person to have his elbow on the table and his head is also vertically the lowest of anyone in the painting. Peter wears an expression of anger and appears to be holding a knife, foreshadowing his violent reaction in Gethsemane during the arrest of Jesus. Peter is leaning towards John and touching him on the shoulder, in reference to John's Gospel where he signals the "beloved disciple" to ask Jesus who is to betray him. [a] The youngest apostle, John, appears to swoon and lean towards Peter. , James the Greater, and Philip are the next group of three. Thomas is clearly upset the raised index finger foreshadows his incredulity of the Resurrection. James the Greater looks stunned, with his arms in the air. Meanwhile, Philip appears to be requesting some explanation. , Jude Thaddeus, and Simon the Zealot are the final group of three. Both Thaddeus and Matthew are turned toward Simon, perhaps to find out if he has any answer to their initial questions.

In common with other depictions of the Last Supper from this period, Leonardo seats the diners on one side of the table, so that none of them has his back to the viewer. Most previous depictions excluded Judas by placing him alone on the opposite side of the table from the other eleven disciples and Jesus, or placing halos around all the disciples except Judas. Leonardo instead has Judas lean back into shadow. Jesus is predicting that his betrayer will take the bread at the same time he does to Thomas and James the Greater to his left, who react in horror as Jesus points with his left hand to a piece of bread before them. Distracted by the conversation between John and Peter, Judas reaches for a different piece of bread not noticing Jesus too stretching out with his right hand towards it (Matthew 26: 23). The angles and lighting draw attention to Jesus, whose turned right cheek is located at the vanishing point for all perspective lines. [15] In addition, the painting demonstrated Da Vinci's masterful use of perspective as it "draws our attention to the face of Christ at the center of the composition, and Christ's face, through his down-turned gaze, directs our focus along the diagonal of his left arm to his hand and therefore, the bread." [16]

Leonardo reportedly used the likenesses of people in and around Milan as inspiration for the painting's figures. The convent's prior complained to Sforza of Leonardo's "laziness" as he wandered the streets to find a criminal to base Judas on. Leonardo responded that if he could find no one else, the prior would make a suitable model. [17] While the painting was being executed, Leonardo's friend, the mathematician Luca Pacioli, called it "a symbol of man's burning desire for salvation". [18]

Important copies

Two early copies of The Last Supper are known to exist, presumed to be work by Leonardo's assistants. The copies are almost the size of the original, and have survived with a wealth of original detail still intact. [19] One, by Giampietrino, is in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the other, by Cesare da Sesto, is installed at the Church of St. Ambrogio in Ponte Capriasca, Switzerland. A third copy (oil on canvas) is painted by Andrea Solari (c. 1520) and is on display in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum of the Tongerlo Abbey, Belgium.

A study for The Last Supper [b] from Leonardo's notebooks [20] shows twelve apostles, nine of which are identified by names written above their heads. Judas sits on the opposite side of the table, as in earlier depictions of the scene. [14]

The Last Supper, c. 1520, by Giampietrino, oil on canvas, in the collection of the Royal Academy of Arts, London. [c] This full-scale copy was the main source for the 1978–1998 restoration of the original. It includes several lost details such as Christ's feet and the salt cellar spilled by Judas. Giampietrino is thought to have worked closely with Leonardo when he was in Milan.

Damage and restorations

Because Sforza had ordered the church to be rebuilt hastily, the masons filled the walls with moisture-retaining rubble. [10] The painting was done on a thin exterior wall, so the effects of humidity were felt keenly, and the paint failed to properly adhere to it. Because of the method used, soon after the painting was completed on 9 February 1498 it began to deteriorate. [9] In 1499, Louis XII contemplated removing the painting from the wall and taking it to France. [23] As early as 1517, the painting was starting to flake, and in 1532 Gerolamo Cardano described it as "blurred and colorless compared with what I remember of it when I saw it as a boy". [24] By 1556 – fewer than sixty years after it was finished – Giorgio Vasari described the painting as reduced to a "muddle of blots" so deteriorated that the figures were unrecognizable. [10] By the second half of the 16th century, Gian Paolo Lomazzo stated that "the painting is all ruined". [9] In 1652, a doorway was cut through the (then unrecognisable) painting, and later bricked up this can still be seen as the irregular arch-shaped structure near the center base of the painting. It is believed, through early copies, that Jesus' feet were in a position symbolizing the forthcoming crucifixion. In 1768, a curtain was hung over the painting intended for its protection the curtain instead trapped moisture on the surface, and whenever it was pulled back, it scratched the flaking paint.

A first restoration was attempted in 1726 by Michelangelo Bellotti, who filled in missing sections with oil paint then varnished the whole mural. This repair did not last well and another restoration was attempted in 1770 by an otherwise unknown artist named Giuseppe Mazza. Mazza stripped off Bellotti's work then largely repainted the painting he had redone all but three faces when he was halted due to public outrage. In 1796, French revolutionary anti-clerical troops used the refectory as an armory and stable [25] they threw stones at the painting and climbed ladders to scratch out the Apostles' eyes. Goethe wrote that in 1800, the room was flooded with two feet of water after a heavy rainstorm. [10] The refectory was used as a prison [ when? ] it is not known if any of the prisoners may have damaged the painting. In 1821, Stefano Barezzi, an expert in removing whole frescoes from their walls intact, was called in to remove the painting to a safer location he badly damaged the center section before realizing that Leonardo's work was not a fresco. Barezzi then attempted to reattach damaged sections with glue. From 1901 to 1908, Luigi Cavenaghi first completed a careful study of the structure of the painting, then began cleaning it. In 1924, Oreste Silvestri did further cleaning, and stabilised some parts with stucco.

During World War II, on 15 August 1943, the refectory was struck by Allied bombing protective sandbagging prevented the painting from being struck by bomb splinters, [26] but it may have been damaged by the vibration. Between 1946 and 1954, Mauro Pellicioli undertook a clean-and-stabilise restoration, [10] which Brera director Fernanda Wittgens [it] was involved in. [25] Pellicioli reattached paint to the wall using a clear shellac, making it relatively darker and more colorful, and removed some of the overpainting. [27] However, as of 1972, the repainting done in various restorations had made the heads of saints Peter, Andrew, and James differ significantly from the original design. [10]

Major restoration

The painting's appearance by the late 1970s had badly deteriorated. From 1978 to 1999, Pinin Brambilla Barcilon guided a major restoration project which undertook to stabilize the painting, and reverse the damage caused by dirt and pollution. The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century restoration attempts were also reversed. Since it had proved impractical to move the painting to a more controlled environment, the refectory was instead converted to a sealed, climate-controlled environment, which meant bricking up the windows. Then, detailed study was undertaken to determine the painting's original form, using scientific tests (especially infrared reflectoscopy and microscopic core-samples), and original cartoons preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Some areas were deemed unrestorable. These were re-painted using watercolor in subdued colors intended to indicate they were not original work, while not being too distracting. [28]

This restoration took 21 years and, on 28 May 1999, the painting was returned to display. Intending visitors were required to book ahead and could only stay for 15 minutes. When it was unveiled, considerable controversy was aroused by the dramatic changes in colors, tones, and even some facial shapes. James Beck, professor of art history at Columbia University and founder of ArtWatch International, had been a particularly strong critic. [29] Michael Daley, director of ArtWatch UK, has also complained about the restored version of the painting. He has been critical of Christ's right arm in the image which has been altered from a draped sleeve to what Daley calls "muff-like drapery". [30]

The Last Supper has frequently been referenced, reproduced, or parodied in Western culture. Some of the more notable examples are:


Why did Bill Gates bought Da Vinci's Codex Leicester for $30 million?

See Inside The Da Vinci Notebook That Cost Bill Gates $30 Million. Back in 1994, Bill Gates paid $US 30.8 million dollars for the Leonardo Da Vinci manuscript &ldquoCodex Leicester&rdquo. The Microsoft cofounder has put the notebook on display at selected museums, allowing visitors a rare glimpse inside Da Vinci's mind.

Additionally, what is da Vinci's Codex? The Codex Leicester (also briefly known as Codex Hammer) is a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci. The Codex is named after Thomas Coke, later credited to Earl of Leicester, who purchased it in 1719.

Moreover, how much is the Codex Leicester worth?

Not bad for a guy who's worth almost $100 billion, according to Forbes. Despite all that, in 1994, right before he first became the richest person in the world, Gates couldn't resist splurging on Leonardo da Vinci's &ldquoCodex Leicester&rdquo for $30.8 million &mdash making it one of the most expensive books ever sold.


3. He wanted to share Leonardo's sense of wonder and curiosity with the world

When have a hero we admire, we feel compelled to share the reasons we're so inspired by them with everyone else.

Just last year, Gates announced a project that he was working on called the "Codescope," an interactive kiosk touch screen that allows a person to explore the "Codex Leicester." It was Gates' way of encouraging others to learn about the history of Leonardo's notebook, see every page of his original writing, get translations and even watch animated versions of his drawings.

"Since you can't touch the Codex itself — it's preserved behind glass — the ɼodescope' is the next best thing to flipping through the pages that the great man wrote on," Gates wrote in a post announcing the project.

As part of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death, the "Codescope" (and the "Codex Leicester") ended up traveling through a number of museums in Europe (from October 2018 to January 20, 2019) and was available to the public.


Many important and influential figures throughout history have carried a notebook. The most famous of which include:

  • Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Thomas Edison
  • Charles Darwin
  • Marie Curie
  • Albert Einstein
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Mark Twain
  • Benjamin Franklin

Ludwig van Beethoven

The legendary composer carried journals that were full of music notes and inspiring quotes. He referred to these as “conversation notebooks” as the famously deaf musician would also use them to communicate with others.

Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway is famous for his love of writing in notebooks while sitting in Parisian cafés. He was once overheard saying: “I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Marilyn Monroe

The actress, model, and pinup is famous for being a blonde bombshell with a tragic story. Few people know that she was also an avid writer, keeping a notebook for her acting class notes and poetry.

Thomas Edison

Over the course of his career, Edison is reported to have used over five million pages of notebook paper. He used his notebooks to sketch invention ideas, including the light bulb and phonograph.

Charles Darwin

Darwin took fourteen diaries with on his exploration of the Galapagos Islands. They show detailed notes on his research and theories on natural selection, evolution, and survival of the fittest – all of which would eventually become The Origin of the Species.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie is a Nobel prize-winning physicist who discovered polonium and radium. She kept notebooks that are said to be radioactive due to her always having one on hand while working with chemicals. In fact, they’re currently sitting in lead-lined boxes at France’s Bibliotheque National.

Albert Einstein

The famed genius kept various notebooks for all of his calculations and invention ideas. The most famous of which is the Zurich notebook, which shows all his notes on the theory of relativity.

Leonardo da Vinci

The well-known artist kept notebooks that were written from right to left. He was a lefty who would use paper for everything, from detailed sketches of future paintings to shopping lists to, no kidding, a list of all the clothes he owned.

Mark Twain

At the age of 21, Twain was learning how to become a “cub” pilot on a steamboat. His instructor was tired of him forgetting instructions and made him get a pocket notebook. After that, the author started keeping a notebook with him at all times.

Benjamin Franklin

Before yoga and meditation were popular, Franklin was working on his own personal improvement. Our founding father kept a notebook that consisted of advice on how to live 13 virtues, including sincerity, justice, and cleanliness.


That $450 Million Leonardo? It’s No Mona Lisa.

You can’t put a price on beauty you can put a price on a name. When the National Gallery in London exhibited a painting of Christ in 2011 as a heretofore lost work by Leonardo da Vinci, the surprise in art historical circles was exceeded only by the salivating of dealers and auctioneers.

The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” is the only Leonardo in private hands, and was brought to market by the family trust of Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire entangled in an epic multinational lawsuit with his former dealer, Yves Bouvier. On Wednesday night, at Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale (in which it was incongruously included to reach bidders beyond Renaissance connoisseurs), the Leonardo sold for a shocking $450.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction. Worth it? Well, what are you buying: the painting or the brand?

Image

The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted, as an image in the sale catalog shows. Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation.

Authentication is a serious but subjective business. I’m not the man to affirm or reject its attribution it is accepted as a Leonardo by many serious scholars, though not all. I can say, however, what I felt I was looking at when I took my place among the crowds who’d queued an hour or more to behold and endlessly photograph “Salvator Mundi”: a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.

Its most engaging passages are in the embroidered blue gown that Christ wears. The robe’s folds are supple and sinuous, and the trim, zigzagged with an elaborate and unbroken knotting pattern, has a mathematical intricacy that gives this Christian painting a surprising Islamic touch. (Technical analysis confirms that Leonardo used pure lapis lazuli for the robe, rather than cheaper azurite.)

The orb that Christ holds in his left hand, symbolizing his dominion over all creation, is not as showy as Dan Brown devotees might like, but its watery coloring, glossy edges and dimpled bottom do the trick well enough. His curly hair, especially the lower tresses framing Christ’s neckline, has a certain corkscrew adeptness, though it’s not as proficient as the similarly kinky locks of Leonardo’s recently restored “St. John the Baptist,” at the Louvre in Paris, or Botticelli’s slightly earlier “Portrait of a Lady,” at the Städel in Frankfurt.

Yet there’s a meekness and monotony to “Salvator Mundi” that can’t be redeemed by these marginally engaging details. The savior of the world appears in this painting as a soft, spumy cipher. His eyes are blank. His chin, flecked with stubble, recedes into shadow. The raised right hand is stiffer and less sensate than John the Baptist’s, and overlit relative to his shaded cheeks and mouth.

And unlike other Leonardo portraits — “St. John the Baptist” and the Mona Lisa, or the alluring “Lady With an Ermine,” or “La Belle Ferronnière,” recently shipped from the Louvre to Abu Dhabi — here the subject appears head-on, flattened into the picture frame like a medieval icon painting. Other sophisticated paintings from around 1500, such as Albrecht Dürer’s Christifying self-portrait in Munich’s Alte Pinakothek, made use of such frontal orientation. But where Dürer’s self-portrait as Christ radiates authority, “Salvator Mundi” retires into itself. This Jesus, far from saving the world, might struggle to save himself a seat on a crosstown bus.

Of course, the painting’s place within the history of northern Italian art was not at hand in the sale room on Wednesday, nor did it trouble the thousands of visitors who saw it in New York, London or Hong Kong. Displayed in a darkened gallery under spotlights, framed by a pair of security guards wearing funereal black, the Leonardo was presented almost as a holy relic — and Christie’s marketing department rolled out the superlatives alongside, sending the painting on a world tour and hyping it with the rather sacrilegious nickname of “the male Mona Lisa.”

The fantasy of individual genius was on offer, a fantasy more seductive and enduring than any in Western art. It can infuse even the driest of pictures with the illusion of greatness, and price tags this bloated, too, can imbue workaday art with new weight. But reputations rise and fall, attributions are assigned and reconsidered, and money — well, money can’t buy you everything. When its new owner gazes at “Salvator Mundi” over the mantelpiece (or, more likely, visits it in a climate-controlled, tax-free storage facility) he or she may have cause to reflect on the Gospel of Luke.

“Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled,” intones the man in the $450 million picture. “But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.”


Watch the video: Leonardo da Vincis Salvator Mundi. 2017 World Auction Record. Christies


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    I'm sorry, but, in my opinion, mistakes are made. We need to discuss. Write to me in PM, it talks to you.

  6. Shak

    Somewhere I have already seen this ... And if on the topic, thanks.



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