The story that keeps swirling around this mediocre painting whose whereabouts is now unknown is a punch line that keeps on giving. New York art historian and dealer Robert B. Simon bought the “Salvator Mundi” from a New Orleans auction house for $1,175 in 2005. It was attributed to Leonardo in 2011. It sold at auction in 2017 for $450 million. Mr. Simon’s appeal to profound spirituality conveyed across time as the most compelling evidence for attribution to Leonardo is droll. But I also understand it.
“There are a host of reasons why I believe 100% in Leonardo’s authorship of the Salvator Mundi – most of all the inimitable style, unique iconography and phenomenal quality of the painting,” Simon told the Observer. “To these one could add the peculiarities of Leonardo’s technique, the relationship of the painting to autograph drawings, and the evidence of the work’s history. However, for me the most compelling reason to believe in the painting is neither scholarly nor scientific: it comes from its sense of profound spirituality that is conveyed from artist to viewer across 500 years.”
(Jamie Doward, “The mystery of the missing Leonardo: where is Da Vinci’s $450m Jesus?” theguardian.com, 10-13-19)
(c) 2019 JMN