At Large  May 28, 2019  Chandra Noyes

Louvre Casts Further Doubt on Authenticity of Salvator Mundi

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Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, c.1500, oil on walnut

According to a report in the Guardian, the Louvre has declined to include the most expensive painting ever sold in their upcoming blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition. The Salvator Mundi has its supporters and critics, but doubts about whether or not it’s an authentic da Vinci didn’t stop its sale at Christie’s for $450.3 million in 2017.

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Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine, c. 1489–1490

The winning bidder in an electrifying auction was the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, who intended the work to hang in the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Since the sale, the painting hasn’t been seen, and there has been much speculation about its location and why it has remained hidden from public view. 

Its exhibition at the Louvre to celebrate the 500th anniversary of da Vinci's death would have marked the Salvator Mundi’s big debut. But writer and art historian Ben Lewis, author of a new tell-all about the painting, The Last Leonardo, says his sources indicate that that won’t be happening.

Lewis explains that if the Louvre were to hang the Salvator Mundi, they would want to attribute the painting the workshop of da Vinci, rather than the artist himself. The painting's valuation is largely based on its being attributed to the Renaissance master. Should the Louvre make their doubts public in this way, the value of the Salvator Mundi would take a nose-dive, from $450 million to an estimated $1.5 million.

One of fewer than 20 known works by Leonardo, the Salvator Mundi was extensively restored before being offered at auction. Hundreds of years worth of damage and subsequent repairs were removed, making the painting particularly hard to authenticate.

About the Author

Chandra Noyes

Chandra Noyes is Managing Editor for Art & Object.

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