How Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi,’ once lost, was sold for $80 million to an unidentified collector


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Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi,’ a masterpiece that has captivated the art world for centuries, took a remarkable journey from obscurity to the limelight in the mid-2000s. The story begins with American art dealer Alexander Parish, who stumbled upon this extraordinary painting at an estate sale, setting in motion a chain of events that would culminate in its record-breaking sale for an estimated $75 to $80 million in May 2013.

The ‘Salvator Mundi,’ translated as “Savior of the World,” is a depiction of Christ as the Redeemer of humanity. Leonardo da Vinci, renowned for his unparalleled artistic genius, is believed to have created this masterpiece around 1500. The painting disappeared from historical records for centuries, adding an air of mystery to its provenance.

The rediscovery of the ‘Salvator Mundi’ occurred at an estate sale in the mid-2000s. Alexander Parish, an American art dealer with a keen eye for hidden treasures, happened upon the painting, initially unaware of the profound significance of his find. Little did he know that this seemingly ordinary auction would lead to the unveiling of a lost masterpiece by one of the greatest artists in history.

As the art world caught wind of the discovery, experts and scholars began to scrutinize the work to authenticate its origin. The attribution to Leonardo da Vinci sparked fervent debates and scholarly discussions, with some expressing skepticism and others embracing the possibility of a genuine masterpiece. The restoration and authentication process took several years, involving meticulous examination, scientific analysis, and the expertise of art historians.

In 2011, after careful examination and restoration, the ‘Salvator Mundi’ was unveiled to the public at the National Gallery in London. The revelation of this long-lost da Vinci masterpiece sent shockwaves through the art community, affirming its authenticity and elevating it to the status of a cultural treasure.

Following its public debut, the ‘Salvator Mundi’ took center stage in the art market. In May 2013, the masterpiece was sold at auction to an unidentified collector for a staggering sum between $75 million and $80 million. The sale not only set a new record for the most expensive artwork ever sold but also solidified the ‘Salvator Mundi’ as one of the most coveted and valuable paintings in history.

The identity of the buyer remained shrouded in mystery, adding an additional layer of intrigue to the narrative. Speculation swirled around the art world, with rumors suggesting that the collector was a private individual or a representative of a wealthy institution. The anonymity of the buyer only heightened the enigma surrounding the ‘Salvator Mundi.’

While the sale marked a triumphant moment for the art world, it also sparked controversy and discussions about the commercialization of art and the role of private collectors in shaping cultural heritage. Some critics questioned whether such a significant cultural artifact should be in the hands of a private individual, while others celebrated the painting’s restoration to the public eye.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ remains a symbol of artistic genius, mystery, and the ever-evolving nature of the art market. Its journey from obscurity to a record-breaking auction stands as a testament to the enduring allure of masterpieces and the captivating narratives woven into the fabric of art history.


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