This documentary unlocks the mystery of da Vinci's Salvator Mundi

It became the most expensive painting ever sold in 2017, but that's not the beginning or the end of the story.

by George Griffiths
11 July 2021, 10:38am

Images courtesy of Sony Classics

Salvator Mundi became the most expensive painting ever sold in 2017 when it was auctioned for $450.3 million. The reason for such a staggering number? It was a lost original of one Leonardo da Vinci. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

Although, the story isn’t as simple or as cut and dry as that fairytale ending, which is what new documentary The Lost Leonardo will investigate.

The film follows the story of the painting from its very inception; found and sold at a New Orleans auction house for a paltry $1,100 before undergoing some restorations and its true origins began to be revealed.

Much to everyone’s surprise, as some layers of the painting were uncovered during its restoration and subsequent re-touchings were removed, something was starting to become abundantly clear.

“Nobody could have painted this,” the restorationist explains in the documentary, “apart from Leonardo.”

And yes, Leonardo she means the Leonardo. Da Vinci, not DiCaprio.

Sometimes called the male Mona Lisa, the Salvator Mundi depicts Jesus in an anachronistic Renaissance blue dress. In his right hand, he makes the sign of the cross and in his left, he holds a crystal orb. The painting is very literal in its description; Jesus is painted as Salvator Mundi, or the saviour of the world.

While the painting was sold at Christie’s in 2017 and is now attributed as a previously lost, original work by da Vinci, some detractors do doubt the veracity of this, some claiming that the painting is not solely the work of Da Vinci himself.

This is something The Lost Leonardo will explore and interrogate too, seemingly also holding the painting up as a parallel to the murky, political dealings of the art world on a global scale.

“As its price soars, so do questions about its authenticity: is this painting really by Leonardo da Vinci?” A synopsis reads.

The painting was sold by Christie’s in 2017 for the record-breaking total of $450.3 million to Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdullah. It was originally supposed to be housed in the Louvre Abu Dabhi, before its exhibition there was cancelled. Its precise whereabouts now remain unknown.

The Lost Leonardo will premiere in New York and LA August 13, before receiving a US-wide release shortly after.

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