Mystery Of The Leonardo Da Vinci Painting Once Owned By King Charles I, That Just Sold For $450 Million

There is a mystery shrouding Salvator Mundi, the Leonardo da Vinci painting that has shattered all previous art auction records Wednesday. Once owned by King Charles I, this painting dubbed the “male Mona Lisa,” sold for a mere $60 in the 50s, under another artist’s name. What do experts actually know about the Renaissance master’s priceless work of art?

Leonardo’s painting Salvador Mundi, translated from the Italian as “Savior of the World,” is a painting of Jesus. He is in his long robes, holding an “orb” in his left hand, that is a symbol of the earth. His right hand has his two first fingers touching his thumb, in the sign of the cross, representing God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As clear the depiction is of Christ, there are still has quite a few mysteries surrounding the great work.

First there is the mystery of the authenticity issue. One of the issues is questioning the depiction of the orb itself. According to the Telegraph, Leonardo painted this alongside the Mona Lisa in 1500. They point out that the painter’s biographer Walter Isaacson claims that this is the period of Leonardo’s life that he was focused on optics.

While many claim that the orb is a “little off,” as his reflection should be inside of the orb. Yet, the biographer believes differently, that Leonard was “subtly trying to impart a miraculous quality to Christ and his orb.”

Then the question arises, how did such a priceless painting get lost in the first place? The Telegraph points out the provenance of the Leonardo painting is rather mysterious.

Once owned by King Charles I, the painting “disappeared completely” after 1783. Although the monarch was executed in 1649 during the English Civil War, it appears to have remained in Great Britain.

It was not until 1900 that the painting “surfaced,” thanks to esteemed art collector Sir Charles Robinson. Yet, the figure of Christ had gone through quite a transformation.

According to ABC News, the face and hair were painted over. During this period of time, the painting was no longer attributed to the Italian master, and instead to Bernardino Luini, a “follower.”

Then, 66 years ago, it was sold for a mere $60, only to pop up 12 years ago, at an estate sale in the United States. After several years of restoration, it went on auction.

Then, in 2013, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev purchased the painting for $127.6 million dollars. While that seems like a hefty number, the recent predictions were that Salvador Mundi would go for around $100 million dollars. No one imaged it would shatter any previous auction record for a work of art.

Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci. [Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci. [Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

Alan Wintermute, Christie’s senior specialist explained that this was a once in a “lifetime” auction.

Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of old master paintings. Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now.”

Christie’s created the perfect campaign for the Leonardo de Vinci work of art, labeling it “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century.” As there are “fewer than 20 authenticated Leonardo works,” Salvador Mundi may easily turn out to be the greatest work ever placed on auction in the 21st century. And now it is in the collection of an unknown buyer.

[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]