“The Last Da Vinci” Leonardo’s Christ sells for $450 Million
It was once part of Charles I's Royal collection and then disappeared, re-emerging a century ago and selling for just £45
But on Wednesday evening, the last remaining Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands was bought for a staggering $450 despite lingering questions by some experts over its authenticity.
Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) depicts Christ in a blue robe holding a crystal orb, which represents the Earth, and is one of fewer than 20 paintings by the grand master known to still exist.
Following a six-year investigation, the painting, which has been nicknamed "the male Mona Lisa", was confirmed to be a Leonardo in 2011 and put on display at the National Gallery.
It was the first confirmed "discovery" of a painting by Leonardo since 1909 and was widely described as one of the great artistic finds of the past 100 years.
Leonardo, who died in 1519, is thought to have painted Salvator Mundi sometime after 1500, and it made its way into the Royal collection of Charles I in the early Seventeenth Century.
It then disappeared in 1763 until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson, an art collector, for the Cook Collection, Doughty House, Richmond. At the time, the painting was thought to have been by Leonardo's follower, Bernardino Luini.
In 1958 the painting was sold by Sotheby's for just £45 and dropped off the grid once again until it showed up in Louisiana in 2005.
It was acquired, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of American art dealers who paid less than £7,600 ($10,000) for it.
They restored it extensively and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo. Dmitry Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire, bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million (£97 million) in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.
Art lovers queued for hours outside Christie's Rockefeller Center headquarters to view the painting in New York earlier this week.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Svetla Nikolova told the Associated Press. "It should be seen. It's wonderful it's in New York. I'm so lucky to be in New York at this time."
Nina Doede, an art lover, told the New York Times: “Standing in front of that painting was a spiritual experience. It was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes."
Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d'Alger holds the record for the most expensive painting ever sold at auction. It went for $179.4 million in 2015.
The most expensive painting ever sold was Paul Gauguin's Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?), which commanded $300 million in a private sale.