The 500-year-old paint is, by far, the many expensive work ever sold at auction.

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Eileen Kinsella, November 15, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi. Courtesy that Christie"s images Ltd., 2017.

After weeks of anticipation, it finally happened: Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (circa 1500), billed as the last recognized painting by the Renaissance understand in personal hands, offered at Christie’s for $450.3 million. It is, by far, the many expensive job-related of art ever before sold at auction. In fact, the price is an ext than twin the next many expensive work ever sold, Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’), which fetched $179.4 million in 2015.

The work-related went to an anonymous customer of Alex Rotter, Christie’s global co-head of contemporary art. Before a packed salesroom and scores of camera phones hosted aloft, bidding opened up at $70 million. In ~ $190 million, 5 bidders—four top top the phones and one in the room—were tho chasing the painting.

The 19-minute dispute eventually came under to Rotter and Francois De Poortere, the head of Christie’s Old grasp painting department in new York.

At $352 million, auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen developed a glass of ice water indigenous behind the rostrum and also took a sip.

After a protracted bidding battle in i beg your pardon Rotter’s client continued come bid in increments as big as $30 million—and De Poortere’s customer bid in smaller measures of roughly $2 million–5 million—the work hammered down for $400 million to a flurry the applause (and a few gasps). Through the auction house’s fees, the final price was $450.3 million.

The painting was among 58 works consisted of in Christie’s evening revenue of postwar and modern art ~ above Wednesday in ~ Rockefeller center in brand-new York.


Christie’s salesroom the minute after the hammer come down, selling Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi because that $400 million. Photo: Eileen Kinsella.

Salvator Mundi was consigned through the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, that bought it in 2013. In ~ tonight’s sale, the work brought a insurance by a 3rd party, which means that an outside buyer had essentially committed to purchase the painting in development for $100 million. (In exchange because that the at an early stage commitment, the guarantor will receive a re-superstructure of the profits above $100 million.)

The auction residence took the unusual move of put the occupational in its evening modern-day art auction, essentially betting the it would appeal to the greatest trophy-hunting arts collectors regardless of when it to be made. And also indeed, the battle eventually came down to an Old grasp specialist (De Poortere) and a contemporary one (Rotter), through the latter arising victorious ~ a lengthy sequence of wild bids.

Until now, the most expensive painting ever sold in ~ auction to be Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) (1955), i beg your pardon was sold at one more genre-mixing revenue at Christie’s in may 2015 for $179.4 million. (Accounting because that inflation, the price is approximately $186 million in 2017 dollars.)

And though it was included in the contemporary sale, Salvator Mundi also easily end up being the most expensive Old grasp painting ever before sold in ~ auction. It broke the record collection by Peter Paul Rubens’s Massacre that the Innocents (1612), which fetched $76.7 million (equivalent to $106 million today) in ~ Sotheby’s in 2002.

The Leonardo painting has actually a dramatic backstory that requires a imperial family, an heritage sale, and also a controversial lawsuit. Initially commissioned because that the French imperial collection, the went missing for decades. In 2005, a consortium of dealers spotted the painting at an legacy sale and also had the authenticated as a bona fide Leonardo. In 2013, they sold the work-related to Swiss dealer and also so-called “freeport king” Yves Bouvier for a price reportedly between $75 million and $80 million.

Bouvier climate flipped the occupational to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev because that a report $127.5 million. The colossal mark-up eventually touched off a contentious legal fight between the two males that is still playing out in global courts.

Although Rybolovlev make a tidy benefit on his purchase, the record-breaking sale has actually done tiny to fix the relationship between the billionaire and also his previous advisor. “Thanks to the professionalism and also expertise of Christie’s, the record-breaking sale of Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi has actually helped restore some the the value of the collection,” a representative native Rybolovlev’s family members office told in a statement. “This is a welcome advance for the Rybolovlev household trusts together we undertake legitimate proceedings to attend to the shocking alleged fraud cursed by Yves Bouvier who deceived the family, every while pretending to it is in a friend and also advisor.”

Condition and also restoration concerns are thought to have influenced the work’s reduced offering price in ~ Christie’s—$27.5 million less than Rybolovlev paid. The damaged work-related was heavily revitalized ahead of its debut in a Leonardo exhibition in ~ the national Gallery in London in 2012.

Attorney thomas Danziger, who stood for the consortium of three dealers who offered the work-related privately v Sotheby’s in 2013, said front of the sale: “Certainly the subsequent acquisition by the current owner at a an extremely high number validates the marketplace and the legitimacy the the picture and would justify one even higher purchase price in the auction room tonight.” that the painting’s sale set off miscellaneous of a Leonardo frenzy. It attracted lines around the block on virtually every stop of that promotional world tour, including in London and San Francisco. Practically 27,000 people came to see the painting.

Seventy-five members of the press registered come cover tonight’s auction. (Christie’s said it struggle maximum capacity.) The auction house also took the unorthodox action of requiring bidders who wanted in ~ above the Leonardo action to register for a distinct red paddle in advance.

Fascination through the painting sparked a flood of stories about the secret orb and also what motivated Leonardo, one avid college student of optics, to render it with less than 100 percent accuracy.

Asked about the staggering result on Twitter, the writer Walter Isaacson, who simply released a brand-new biography ~ above the Renaissance master, said: “I think it shows the enduring allure the Leonardo. That blesses us with a sharp hand reaching out indigenous mystery, similar to Salvator Mundi does.”

Meanwhile,’s movie critic Ben Davis has his own fascinating take on the picture, creating that the Christie’s revenue is “the latest and also perhaps many convincing portent that we are living in the finish Times.”

The painting has actually sold for much more money than most civilization could ever before imagine. Cue the apocalypse.

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