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The Most Expensive Painting in the World?


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By Aadhya Ramineni ’19, A&E Section Editor

The only privately-owned Da Vinci painting will be auctioned off next week in New York City. The ‘male Mona Lisa’ can be yours for merely a hundred million dollars. The painting portrays Christ offering a blessing with his right hand and holding a glass orb in his left. The glass orb symbolizes the world, so the painting was named Salvator Mundi or “Savior of the World.”

At one point, the treasured painting was a part of King Charles I’s art collection, but it was lost around the 1900’s. Unaware of its value, someone painted over the masterpiece. It’s incredible to think that the portrait was sold in 1958 for 45 euros and again in 2005 for only $10,000. The painting was restored and investigated over the course of six years. In 2011, experts confirmed it as an original Da Vinci. BBC’s documentary, The Lost Treasure, claims that “for some, it was like discovering a new planet.”

However, author Walter Isaacson questions the painting’s authenticity in his biography of Da Vinci published last month. He claims that the orb in Christ’s hand wasn’t painted accurately. “In one respect, it is rendered with beautiful scientific precision… But Leonardo failed to paint the distortion that would occur when looking through the orb.” He points out that “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.” It is odd because Da Vinci was “deep into his optics studies, and how light reflects and refracts was an obsession.” Isaacson doubts whether The Salvator Mundi was really painted by artist, scientist, and inventor, Da Vinci. A spokeswoman from Christie’s, the auction house where the painting is currently located, counters Isaacson’s theory: “It is our opinion that he chose not to portray it in this way because it would be too distracting to the subject of the painting.”

Despite debate on its authenticity, the painting will be auctioned on November 15th, 2017 at Christie’s. The New York auction house is famous for selling the world’s most expensive painting to date: Picasso’s Nude Green Leaves and Bust, which sold for $106.5 million in 2010. The Salvator Mundi is likely to outdo this record and become the world’s most expensive painting.

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The Most Expensive Painting in the World?