Mystery over Christ’s orb in $100m Leonardo da Vinci painting

A new biography of Leonardo da Vinci has raised “a puzzling anomaly” in a rediscovered painting that is estimated to fetch $100m (£75m) at auction next month.

The Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) portrays Jesus gesturing in blessing with his right hand while holding a crystal orb in his left hand.

Declared authentic just six years ago, it is to be sold on 15 November by Christie’s New York, which describes it as “one of fewer than 20 known paintings by Leonardo, and the only one in private hands”.

But in a forthcoming study, Leonardo da Vinci: the Biography, Walter Isaacson questions why an artistic genius, scientist, inventor, and engineer showed an “unusual lapse or unwillingness” to link art and science in depicting the orb.

He writes: “In one respect, it is rendered with beautiful scientific precision … But Leonardo failed to paint the distortion that would occur when looking through a solid clear orb at objects that are not touching the orb.

“Solid glass or crystal, whether shaped like an orb or a lens, produces magnified, inverted, and reversed images. Instead, Leonardo painted the orb as if it were a hollow glass bubble that does not refract or distort the light passing through it.” Read more