Fresh doubts over the world’s most expensive painting

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The authenticity of the world’s most expensive painting has been questioned after claims that Leonardo Da Vinci did not create it.

The Salvator Mundi was sold for $450 million in November 2017, but the National Gallery failed to record suspicions it may not have been an autograph work by Leonardo.

Michael Daley, director of ArtWatch UK, said: ‘We don’t think it’s a Leonardo and it should not have gone in the exhibition back in 2011’.

The doubts over the artwork came two years after it was sold to a buyer thought to have been acting for Saudi Arabia’s ruler Mohammad bin Salman.

However, according to claims in a new book written by the art scholar Ben Lewis, the Gallery did not mention anything about the doubts of art historians, who gathered in 2008 to analyse who was the artist behind the Salvator Mundi.

There were ’two Yeses, one No, and two No Comments’, writes Lewis in his book when describing the verdict on the painting’s authenticity.

Agents celebrate after buying the auction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” during the Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie’s on November 15, 2017

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Agents celebrate after buying the auction of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” during the Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale at Christie’s on November 15, 2017

Credit: Getty Images

Mr Syson, who is now director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, said of the 2008 meeting: ‘There are all sorts of reasons for people to be more circumspect about their views now because so much has happened. . . and there was pretty much unanimous agreement that what they were looking at was Leonardo.’

Despite the doubt cast on the artwork, the National Gallery claimed undoubtedly in its catalogue that Leonardo created the painting. This was the main reason why the value of the painting dramatically increased from $1,175 in 2005 to $450 million in 2017, after it was included in the gallery’s 2011 blockbuster Leonardo show.’

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A member of staff poses with the Salvator Mundi

Credit: Getty Images

Salvator Mundi was due to appear at the Louvre Abu Dhabi last year, but the exhibition of the artwork was cancelled without any explanation. Since then the location of the picture is unknown. ‘Nobody outside the immediate Arab hierarchy knows where it is,’ said Professor Martin Kemp, the Leonardo scholar whose research helped the authentication of the artwork.

 

Ben Lewis’ book The Last Leonardo: the Secret Life of the World’s Most Expensive Painting, will be released April 18.

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