19 Nov 2017
"Salvator Mundi". Leonardo da Vinci Painting Sells for $450.3 Million
The work went to an anonymous client of Alex Rotter, Christie’s global co-head of contemporary art. Before a packed salesroom and scores of camera phones held aloft, bidding opened at $70 million. At $190 million, five bidders—four on the phones and one in the room—were still chasing the painting.
The 19-minute contest eventually came down to Rotter and Francois De Poortere, the head of Christie’s Old Master painting department in New York.
At $352 million, auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen produced a glass of ice water from behind the rostrum and took a sip.
After a protracted bidding war in which Rotter’s client continued to bid in increments as large as $30 million—and De Poortere’s client bid in smaller steps of around $2–5 million—the work hammered down for $400 million to a flurry of applause (and a few gasps). With the auction house’s fees, the final price was $450.3 million.
The painting was one of 58 works included in Christie’s evening sale of postwar and contemporary art on Wednesday at Rockefeller Center in New York.
The Leonardo painting has a dramatic backstory that involves a royal family, an estate sale, and a contentious lawsuit. Originally commissioned for the French Royal collection, it went missing for decades. In 2005, a consortium of dealers spotted the painting at an estate sale and had it authenticated as a bona fide Leonardo. In 2013, they sold the work to Swiss dealer and so-called “freeport king” Yves Bouvier for a price reportedly between $75 million and $80 million.
Bouvier then flipped the work to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for a reported $127.5 million.