Leonardo da Vinci’s Christ painting sells for record $450M

Call it the priciest piece of art — ever.A once-lost portrait of Christ by the iconic Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci sold Wednesday at auction for $450 million, roughly triple its anticipated price and the most ever paid for a creative work of human genius.Salvator Mundi, or "Savior of the World," was hammered down at a Christie's auction in New York after a quick tour around the world with stops in Hong Kong, San Francisco and London.The work is believed to be just one of 20 known paintings by da Vinci, who began crafting it around 1500 using a painstaking layering technique that often saw works completed over years. Among da Vinci's other fabled paintings — he was also a brilliant inventor — are The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, which, like all of his other works, belong to museums.The staggering price paid for the modestly sized portrait in fact reflects the rare opportunity for an anonymous collector to add a da Vinci to their collection."This is the holy grail of Old Master paintings, some people call it the male Mona Lisa," Francois de Poortere, head of the Old Masters department at Christie's, told USA TODAY during the painting's stopover in San Francisco last month. "People are deeply taken by this work. You could buy it and just build an entire museum around it."Previously, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million for Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange,” sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.The 26-inch-tall Leonardo painting is unique in that it eschews da Vinci's typical poses — which often featured subjects in three-quarter view with their heads swiveled toward the painter — and instead shows Christ as Continue Reading

Rare Leonardo da Vinci painting auctioned in New York

New York – A painting thought by scholars to be one of only a few by Leonardo da Vinci to have survived the half-millennia since the artist’s death is set to be auctioned Wednesday in New York, where it is guaranteed to sell for at least $100 million.Art lovers have lined up by the thousands at special presale exhibitions in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York to see the only work by the Renaissance master in private hands.The 500-year-old oil painting depicting Christ holding a crystal orb, called “Salvator Mundi” or “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo da Vinci known to exist, according to Christie’s, the auction house conducting the sale.“I can hardly convey how exciting it is for those of us directly involved in its sale,” said Christie’s specialist Alan Wintermute. “The word ‘masterpiece’ barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo’s painting.”Wintermute called it “the Holy Grail of old master paintings.” A backer of the auction has guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million (85 million euros). Experts have said it might be worth more, except for its generally poor state of preservation and lingering questions about its authenticity.The 26-inch (66-centimeter) painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.The painting’s history is as mysterious as Jesus’ enigmatic gaze, which invites comparison to a better-known Leonardo work, the “Mona Lisa.”“Salvator Mundi” was owned by King Charles I of England in the mid-1600s and was auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham in 1763.It then disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At the time, it was thought to be a work of a Leonardo disciple, Continue Reading

Possible Leonardo da Vinci painting found in Swiss bank vault

A 500-year-old painting that may be a lost masterpiece of Leonardo da Vinci has been discovered in a Swiss bank vault. Experts believe that the portrait is a finished version of a pencil sketch of Renaissance noblewoman Isabella d’Este, Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper reported. The sketch, which is currently hanging in the Louvre Museum in Paris, was completed in 1499 or 1500. Historical records indicate that d’Este, the Marchesa of Mantua, was pleased with the sketch and requested that da Vinci create an oil portrait for her. Art historians have believed for centuries that the request was never fulfilled, or the painting was lost, AFP reported. Carbon dating determined that there is a 95% chance the work was painted between 1460 and 1650. Other tests showed that both the primer and pigment match those used by da Vinci. “There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Corriere della Sera on Friday. “I can immediately recognize Da Vinci's handiwork, particularly in the woman's face." However, he added that the portrait, which measures 24-by-18 inches, has to be examined further to see if da Vinci’s students also worked on the painting. But not everyone is convinced it’s a genuine da Vinci. Martin Kemp, an expert on the Renaissance man and a professor emeritus of the history of art at Trinity College, Oxford, told The Daily Telegraph that da Vinci usually painted on wooden boards, and the new portrait is on canvas. “Canvas was not used by Leonardo or anyone in his production line,” he said. “Although with Leonardo, the one thing I have learnt is never to be surprised.” Non-believers also argue that d’Este had the original sketch, so he wouldn’t have be able to use it for reference. There are only 15 to 20 Continue Reading

Leonardo Da Vinci painted a younger version of ‘Mona Lisa’: controversial claim by Swiss foundation

Did Mona Lisa smile for Leonardo Da Vinci twice? A Swiss foundation is trying to say just that, using the portrait of a wryly smiling woman to argue that Leonardo Da Vinci is really the one who painted a brighter, happier version of Mona — when she was a whole decade younger. That supposedly earlier version, called the "Isleworth Mona Lisa,” was presented Thursday by the Zurich-based Mona Lisa Foundation. The Foundation also presented a 320-page book they say proves the controversial point that this work is an authentic Da Vinci painting. "Not one piece of scientific evidence has so far been able to prove definitively that this is not a Leonardo Da Vinci," foundation member and art historian Stanley Feldman told the BBC. Feldman was one of the main authors who contributed to “Mona Lisa: Leonardo's Earlier Version,” the Mona Lisa Foundation’s new book. "We have investigated this painting from every relevant angle and the accumulated information all points to it being an earlier version of the Giaconda in the Louvre," he told Reuters. Called "La Giaconda" in Italian and "La Joconde" in French, the Mona Lisa depicts Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of a rich merchant from Florence, Italy. The world-famous version of the woman — in her early 30s — is on display in the Louvre museum in France. The earlier painting shows a woman in her early 20s. It was discovered in the home of a British aristocrat in the early nineteenth century and shows a woman who looks strikingly similar to the 30-something Mona Lisa, but with brighter colors and a different background. Well traveled, this second work was sent to the United States, Italy and finally Switzerland, where it was stored in the vault of a bank for 40 years, the AP reported. Although the painting remained largely out of the public eye, rumors that the painting could have been a Da Vinci original were kept alive by books like John R. Continue Reading

Starz is set to make Leonardo Da Vinci TV’s newest superhero in ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’

PASADENA, Calif.  – The key to capturing Leonardo Da Vinci on film is to think Batman, says David S. Goyer, creator and writer of Starz’s upcoming series “Da Vinci’s Demons.”  For Goyer, that wasn’t hard. He was behind the “Dark Knight” films and has a new “Superman” movie, “Man of Steel,” coming out next year.    Da Vinci, who lived from 1452 to 1519, is best known as one of the most brilliant artists and inventors in human history, but “Da Vinci’s Demons,” which premiere April 12, also makes him into an action hero.   Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images Stars of the new show "Da Vinci's Demons" (from left): Blake Ritson, Lara Pulver, Laura Haddock, Tom Riley, and executive producer David S. Goyer.   “If we’d just done a movie of him sitting in a room painting, you’d all be checking your watches,” Goyer told TV critics here.   Besides, said Goyer, who noted he had never done a period piece before, “Just look at the myths around him. He’s the second most recognized historical figure ever, behind Christ. So he’s already a kind of superhero.    “Of course, with Da Vinci, we did do a little more historical research.” Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Tom Riley stars as Leonardo da Vinci in Starz’s ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’

Tom Riley says he has no trouble envisioning a PBS version of the Leonardo da Vinci story, a high-minded series that would dramatize the intellectual and artistic life of one of history’s most brilliant minds. “Sure, I’d have been interested in playing that version,” says Riley, a 32-year-old Brit who has been active in movies, TV and on Broadway, most recently in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia.” But PBS isn’t doing da Vinci, at least this year. Starz is. You know Starz. The “Spartacus” series. Kelsey Grammer’s late, lamented “Boss.” The glossy period mob drama “Magic City.” Starz likes to get a little, well, funkier than PBS. On Starz, da Vinci’s story will be called “Da Vinci’s Demons.” It runs eight episodes, starting Friday. Riley plays da Vinci. And yes, the role is a bit looser, earthier and more fanciful than a PBS version might have been. All due respect to PBS, it also might be more fun. The Starz da Vinci does share considerable DNA with a da Vinci who might show up anywhere else, including PBS. He’s the smartest guy in the room, and he knows it. He also knows things people don’t expect him to know. Starz just puts a little more emphasis on things like the “demons” and steamy scenes with Laura Haddock’s Lucretia Donati. But as for Riley, he says that what mainly impressed him were da Vinci’s own body of work and sheer intellect. The series repeatedly dramatizes remarkable innovations that da Vinci brought to primitive fruition, from flying machines to multi-barrel armaments. “He was talking about stuff people still don’t get today,” says Riley. “That 6,000 pages of his diaries exist today is wonderful, but then you realize another 7,000 are missing. You have to wonder what else he was into.” “Da Vinci’s Demons” imagines Continue Reading

Mona Lisa is really Leonardo da Vinci’s male ‘lover,’ Salai (Gian Giacomo Caprotti), claims expert

Her face has captivated millions for centuries, but one expert claims she's a he. The true identity of the person featured in Leonardo da Vinci's celebrated Mona Lisa, which he painted over the course of several years, is a mystery that has left scholars baffled. Many believe the woman who sat for the portrait is Lisa Gheradini, the wife of a merchant who supposedly commissioned the painting. Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian National Committee for Cultural Heritage and head of a team of researchers who have studied the painting, believes this long-held theory isn't correct. He argues the work of art is based on da Vinci's assistant, Salai, whose real name was Gian Giacomo Caprotti. He worked for the legendary artist for nearly 25 years and was a close friend. Maybe even a very close friend. "Salai was very handsome and probably Leonardo's lover," Vinceti said, London's Daily Telegraph reported. Comparisons between the facial characteristics of figures from several of da Vinci's works - such as St. John the Baptist and the Angel Incarnate - reveal striking similarities to the Mona Lisa's nose and mouth, he claims. Salai was known to pose for several of da Vinci's works. Vinceti also believes da Vinci left small clues in the painting. "Close examination of a high-quality digital copy of the portrait had revealed an L for Leonardo and an S for Salai," he said. Vinceti and his team have previously claimed that numbers and letters were painted into the Mona Lisa's eyes, but are only visible through a microscope. His latest wild theory was quickly met with criticism. Author Pietro Marani, who has written several books on da Vinci, dismissed Vinceti's idea as "groundless," according to the Telegraph. "The aging of the painting on wood has caused a great number of cracks to appear in the paint, which have caused a number of shapes to appear that have often been subject to overinterpretation," an official from the Louvre Continue Reading

‘Mona Lisa’ in the nude? Work that resembles Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece on display

Leonardo da Vinci may have painted his iconic subject Mona Lisa in the nude. A painting has surfaced that resembles the artist’s original masterpiece, "Mona Lisa," but historians are split over whether or not it is from the brush of the same artist - or if it is even the same subject. The work is on exhibit in the Museo Ideale in the Tuscan town of Vinci, the birthplace of da Vinci. The work, hidden for almost a century within a private library, shows a portrait of a half-naked woman with a clear resemblance to Mona Lisa. "The frontal look, the position of the hands, the spatial conception of the landscape, with columns at the sides, show a clear link with the Mona Lisa's iconographic theme," Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the museum, told Discovery News. The naked portrait once belonged to Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch, and changed hands many times after that, according to Discovery News. "I think it is very likely that Leonardo da Vinci conceived a naked Mona Lisa," Carlo Pedretti, director of the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, told Discovery News. Many claims of nude Mona Lisa's have been made over the years. "There are at least six nude versions which are very close to da Vinci's hand. All are attributed to the da Vinci school. The most likely scenario is that his followers got inspired by a now-lost original," Vezzosi told Discovery News. Da Vinci reportedly began work on the "Mona Lisa" in 1503, and was believed to have finished it shortly before his death in 1519. The "Mona Lisa" is on display at The Louvre in Paris. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

New evidence suggests ‘Profile of the Bella Principessa’ might be a Leonardo da Vinci original

TORONTO — A new portrait by Leonardo da Vinci may have been discovered thanks to a centuries-old fingerprint.Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, said that a fingerprint on what was presumed to be a 19th-century German drawing of a young woman has convinced art experts that it's actually a Leonardo.Canadian-born art collector Peter Silverman bought "Profile of the Bella Principessa" at the Ganz gallery in New York on behalf of an anonymous Swiss collector in 2007 for about $19,000. New York art dealer Kate Ganz had owned it for about 11 years after buying it at auction for a similar price.One London art dealer now says it could be worth more than $150 million.If experts are correct, it will be the first major work by Leonardo to be identified in 100 years.Ganz doesn't believe it is."Nothing that I have seen or read in the past two years has changed my mind, I do not believe that this drawing is by Leonardo da Vinci," Ganz told The Associated Press on Wednesday.She declined to comment further.Biro said the print of an index or middle finger was found on the artwork and that it matched a fingerprint from Leonardo's "St. Jerome" in the Vatican. Biro examined multispectral images of the drawing taken by the Luminere Technology laboratory in Paris. The lab used a special digital scanner to show successive layers of the work."Leonardo used his hands liberally and frequently as part of his painting technique. His fingerprints are found on many of his works," Biro said. "I was able to make use of multispectral images to make a little smudge a very readable fingerprint."Technical, stylistic and material composition evidence also point to it being a Leonardo. Biro said there's strong consensus among art experts that it is a Leonardo painting."I would say it is priceless. There aren't that many Leonardos in existence," Biro said. He said he had heard that one London dealer felt it could be worth 100 million British pounds (more than $150 Continue Reading

See Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” on the Web

Since Saturday, you don't have to be in Milan to see Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper." Just log online to see a 16 billion pixel image of it that's 1,600 times stronger than images normally photographed with a 10 million pixel digital camera.Visitors can go to www.haltadefinizione.com to view details of the 15th-century masterpiece without having to fly to Milan, including traces of drawings Leonardo put down before painting. "You can see how Leonardo made the cups transparent, something you can't ordinarily see," said curator Alberto Artioli. "You can also note the state of degradation the painting is in." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading