It was an eye-watering amount that not even the experts had predicted. As the hammer fell at Christie’s New York on Wednesday night, it marked the first time that $400m (£304m) was paid for a single painting at auction.
How did Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, a masterpiece rediscovered less than a decade ago, sell for more than triple the amount most dealers and experts had predicted?
Thomas Campbell, former director of the Metropolitan Musuem of Art, told the Guardian that while the price was “eye-popping, it should come as no surprise in a market where speculation, marketing and branding have displaced connoisseurship as the metrics of value”.
Campbell said that the price would certainly “guarantee notoriety” even if questions remained over its condition and authenticity. “Someone is gambling that this painting will attract audiences in the way that the Mona Lisa draws crowds at the Louvre,” he said.
The picture, of a serene-looking Christ dressed in blue and holding an orb, is one of fewer than 20 works by Leonardo still in existence, and was one of only 10 in history to be sold at auction. Yet most predicted it would sell for about $120m, less than the record-breaking $179.4m which was paid for Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger in 2015. Read more