You may remember the controversy surrounding Salvator Mundi, the so-called ‘Last Da Vinci’ painting which resurfaced in 2005 and sold for just $ 10,000 in a real estate sale before being attributed to the legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci, after which it is became the most expensive painting in the world, selling for just over $ 450 million in 2017. Since then, the painting has been mired in controversy, with many suggesting that the “revelation” that it actually was painted by da Vinci (as opposed to one of his students) does not hold up. Now, in an essay for ArtWatch UK, art expert Jacques Franck casts new doubts on the true origins of painting.
Franck does not use science or history to refute the idea that Salvator Mundi was painted by da Vinci. Instead, he uses his expertise on actual da Vinci work and claims that the painting simply does not meet the standards of the master:
“When the index and middle fingers are fully raised, one cannot bend the other fingers inside the palm extensively as seen in the blessing hand of Salvator Mundi. So it’s an unlikely move.
This flies in the face of da Vinci’s documented mastery and attention to detail in human anatomy, Franck says. And that’s not the only feature of the painting he clashes with, also highlighting his subject’s “strangely long and thin nose, mechanical hair curls, flat orb and overly dark neck”.
ArtWatch UK director Michael Daley seems to agree:
“No one was as anatomically sophisticated as Leonardo. The issues with the hands, which cannot have been painted by Leonardo, is just one of the big aspects of this painting that is not talked about … When you find out one thing that’s wrong with a painting tends to be that you find out that everything is wrong with a painting. “
A layman might assume that the painting could simply have been created on a day off for Leonardo, but some specialists in the master’s work are adamant that he did not have days off. Instead, Franck says that artists Salai and Baltraffio, contemporaries of da Vinci who worked under him, could have painted the piece, which was painted around 1500 (the painting was originally attributed to Baltraffio before the “Discovery” that it was supposed to be da Vinci’s work has been made).
We may never know for sure if Leonardo da Vinci painted Salvator Mundi with his own hands, and Franck is just one of many scholar debating this point, and the painting is also shrouded in other mysteries, such as who exactly bought it in 2017 (allegedly Prince Saudi heir Mohammed bin Salman) and where it is located now.