In November 2017, Christie’s auction house offered a 500-year-old painting to the highest bidder. Officially titled “Salvator Mundi”, but nicknamed “Male Mona Lisa”, a 20-minute bidding war broke out among half a dozen buyers from all over the world. The bids, which went in $ 10 million increments, were made by billionaires and museum curators in China, the US, Qatar, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Before the auction opened, the 500-year-old Leonardo da Vinci painting was estimated to sell for $ 100 million.
Final Winner Bid?
$ 450 million
The cost of a record previously held for the most expensive art sold at public auctions is more than double.
The previous record for a public art auction was $ 179 million In 2015, Pablo Picasso’s 1955 “Women of Algiers (version O)” paid off. The buyer was former Qatari Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jasim bin Jaber Al Thani.
The $ 450 million purchase also topped a previously held record for a private art sale. the previous one known A record $ 300 million was paid for a private sale in 2015 for one Paul Gauguin. The buyer in that case was a museum in Qatar.
After the smoke cleared, the winner of the $ 450 million Da Vinci auction revealed Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, AKA “MBS”.
Now there is a small problem with MBS’s $ 450 million “Salvator Mundi”.
Upon closer scrutiny, it may not actually be 100% authentic Da Vinci.
This claim is according to a new documentary titled “The Savior for Sale”.
In the documentary, art analysts allege that although the painting was produced in one of Da Vinci’s workshops, the famous Genius can only be “contributed” to the painting.
How much would you cost “salvator mundi” in 2005.
“Salvator Mundi” was sold by an art dealer in New York in 2005 for just $ 1,175. He is not a typo. You could buy this $ 450 million painting just 16 years ago for more than half the “excitement” check. After undergoing a restoration, it was certified as a long-lost Da Vinci by many British art experts.
It was then displayed in the National Gallery of London. It sold for $ 127.5 million to a Russian oligarch in 2013.
Alligarch was a seller in 2017 when MBS scooped it for $ 415 million.
The painting has not been publicly seen since sale. Most believed it was hanging on some Saudi palace wall or being stored in a highly secure art warehouse in Switzerland.
In fact, it was actually hung on a wall. But not in a palace … $ 500 million Yacht “Scene” on MBS:
And while Serene has two helipads, a climbing wall, a dozen luxury cabins and three swimming pools, the art world was shocked to learn where a Da Vinci was being stored. A yacht, valued at $ 500 million, likely does not have the necessary temperature control or protection from salty air to accumulate a 500-year-old painting.
After winning the auction in 2017, the original plan was to display the painting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the neighboring United Arab Emirates for nearly two years. Then in late 2019 the painting was to be moved to the Louvre in Paris, unveiling a huge display to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.
A curator at the Louvre planned to display a history of painting that included research showing his team portraying Da Vinci as the figure of Christ in minimalist painting.
That news was very well received in Saudi Arabia. This would essentially be a permanent seal of approval, proving that they had not paid $ 450 million for the fake painting.
The documentary, “The Savior for Sale”, claims that some members of the French government lobbied on behalf of bin Salman because of concerns over strategic and economic relations between France and Saudi Arabia.
In the end, President Macron rejected Salman’s request for an official seal of approval from his government.
This left the Louvre to negotiate with the Saudi royal family.
Then another major bone of contention popped up between the Louvre and MBS.
This bone of contention was related to the actual location of the painting at the Louvre.
MBS insisted that his painting be shown almost side-by-side with Da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece, the “Mona Lisa”. The Louvre refused, arguing that the Mona Lisa is held in a custom-built room that can barely accommodate the 30,000 daily visitors we see today.
An agreement was not reached and MBS’s Da Vinci was repatriated to an undisclosed location in Saudi Arabia, where it would eventually be displayed in a yet-to-be-built local museum.
As of this writing there has not been a 100% conclusion on the authenticity of the painting.