Last Da Vinci becomes most expensive artwork ever sold

UPDATE, November 16th 2017: Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold for a record $400 million – plus $50 million of fees – making it the most expensive artwork ever auctioned. We don't know who bought it: the lucky buyer bid by telephone and chose to keep their identity private.

Last Da Vinci becomes most expensive artwork ever sold
Salvator Mundi on display at Christie's New York, where the painting will be auctioned on November 15th. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP.

Salvator Mundi, Da Vinci’s long-lost painting of Christ, goes on auction in New York on Wednesday night – giving collectors a once-in-a-lifetime chance to buy one of the Renaissance genius’ works, all others of which are already owned by museums.

The 500-year-old painting is set to smash all auction records for an Old Master, with bids expected to top $100 million.

That almost certainly puts it out of reach for either the Italian state or any of Italy’s art museums, none of which have announced plans to bid for the work.

Salvator Mundi is currently owned by a Russian billionaire, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it from a Swiss art dealer for $127.5 million in 2013.

The painting re-entered the art market in 2005, when some art experts acquired it for relative peanuts at a local auction in the United States. Heavily painted over and gnawed by worms, the work was unrecognizable until restoration revealed traces of Da Vinci’s trademark techniques.

Photo: 2011 Salvator Mundi LLC/AFP

Christ’s delicately placed hand, the intricate curls of his hair and the haunting quality of his expression have led to comparisons with Da Vinci’s most famous portrait, the Mona Lisa.

Like that work, now a prized possession of the Louvre in Paris, Salvator Mundi seems destined to remain outside Italy.

It has never been exhibited in Da Vinci’s home country, having been commissioned by Louis XII of France and later sold to Charles I of England. It remained in the hands of English aristocrats until it made its way to the US in the 20th century.

Since its rediscovery, the work has been displayed at the National Gallery in London, as well as Christie’s auction houses in Hong Kong and the US.

Art lovers can nonetheless find numerous Da Vinci originals in Italy, including The Last Supper on the walls of the Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan, the Annunciation at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and the Vitruvian Man in Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia – not to mention the farmhouse where the painter was born in the Tuscan town of Vinci. 

Under export laws introduced to help keep Italy's artistic heritage in the country, any work created more than 70 years ago by an artist now deceased requires permission from the Italian state before it can be sold overseas.


The new guide to Florence’s Uffizi Galleries – showing only the nudes

There are lots of guides to the visual splendours of Florence's world-famous galleries - but for those with a short attention span comes a new one, showing only nude or erotic artworks.

The new guide to Florence's Uffizi Galleries - showing only the nudes
Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" is the most famous work included in a controversial new guide to the Uffizi Galleries. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The online guide to the gallieries is produced by the porn website Pornhub and provide a list of the best erotic artworks in each museum, plus directions of how to get there – so you don’t need to waste your time looking at paintings of people in clothes.

Part of the site’s Classic Nudes series of ‘erotic’ guides to some of the world’s most renowned museums, the guide for the Uffizi lists 21 artworks, together with a tongue-in-cheek commentary, and the location of each piece within the galleries.

“The Uffizi Gallery is located in the birthplace of the Renaissance: Florence, Italy. So it’s no wonder it has such a large collection of artwork from the era. But what you may find surprising is the sheer volume and variety of naked bodies rendered in paint, bronze and marble in this marvelous museum,” writes Pornhub.

Among the works featured are Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (1485) and the Roman statue of the Knidian Aphrodite, dating from the 1st Century.

The guide also includes the Venus of Urbino by Titian (1538), which it calls “kinky”, and Painting and Poetry by Francesco Furini (1626), which is described as featuring “two ridiculously hot babes who just so happen to be making out”.

Titian’s “Venus of Urbino”. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Bosses at the Uffizi were not amused at the gallery’s inclusion in Pornhub’s series and have threatened to sue.

Meanwhile in Paris, the Louvre’s management has said only that it is ‘dismayed’, while the Musée d’Orsay remained silent on the subject.

As is hopefully clear, the Pornhub guides are explicit in nature and not suitable for children.

The Uffizi does, however, provide a great day out for all the family and contains a lot of fully-clothed artwork too. At present it is operating with reduced visitor numbers due to health rules, so advance booking to recommended.