Christ painting by Leonardo da Vinci sells for record $450M

KAREN MATTHEWS and TOM McELROY
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — A painting of Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million (380 million euros) at auction on Wednesday, obliterating previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

The painting, called “Salvator Mundi,” Italian for “Savior of the World,” is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. It was sold by Christie’s auction house, which didn’t immediately identify the buyer.

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Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Salvator Mundi achieves $450,312,500, a  for any work of art sold at auction.

The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million (152 million euros), for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015, also at Christie’s in New York. The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros), for Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange,” sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.

A backer of the “Salvator Mundi” auction had guaranteed a bid of at least $100 million (85 million euros), the opening bid of the auction, which ran for 19 minutes. The price hit $300 million about halfway through the bidding.

People in the auction house gallery applauded and cheered when the bidding reached $300 million and when the hammer came down on the final bid, $400 million. The record sale price of $450 million includes the buyer’s premium, a fee paid by the winner to the auction house.

The 26-inch-tall (66-centimeter-tall) Leonardo 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.

Its path from Leonardo’s workshop to the auction block at Christie’s was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000 (8,445 euros). The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million (108 million euros) in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

Christie’s says most scholars agree that the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work’s authorship.

Christie’s capitalized on the public’s interest in Leonardo, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labeled the painting “The Last Da Vinci.” The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale.

In New York, where no museum owns a Leonardo, art lovers lined up outside Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view “Salvator Mundi.”

Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in New York, called the painting “spectacular.”

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “It should be seen. It’s wonderful it’s in New York. I’m so lucky to be in New York at this time.”

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Big Serie A weekend to console Italy fans after WCup failure

Six of the top seven teams in the Italian league play one another, highlighted by Roma vs. Lazio in the Rome derby on Saturday, and leader Napoli’s match against AC Milan.

On Sunday, six-time defending champion Juventus visits surprising Sampdoria and Inter Milan hosts Atalanta, which was last season’s revelation.

Here’s a look at the big matches:

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TOTTI-LESS DERBY

The first derby since longtime Roma captain Francesco Totti retired is the most anticipated meeting between the capital’s two clubs in years.

Both Lazio and Roma have had strong starts to the season and sit fourth and fifth, respectively, in the standings with only one point separating them.

It will be a matchup between last season’s Serie A scoring leader, Roma’s Edin Dzeko (29 goals in 37 matches), and this season’s scoring leader, Lazio’s Ciro Immobile (14 in 11).

Roma boasts the league’s best defense, having conceded just seven goals in 11 games, while Lazio is one of only three squads to have scored 30 goals or more.

Both clubs also feature young coaches who are making a growing impact — Simone Inzaghi at Lazio and Eusebio Di Francesco at Roma. Inzaghi and Di Francesco used to face each other in the “Derby della Capitale” when they were players for Lazio and Roma, respectively.

As always in the derby, security will be high, especially after Lazio fans littered the Stadio Olimpico with images of Anne Frank — the young diarist who died in the Holocaust — wearing a jersey of city rival Roma last month.

The displays of anti-Semitism are being investigated by the football federation and could result in a stadium ban for Lazio.

Meanwhile, Roma may want to keep something in reserve for Wednesday’s visit to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

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INSIGNE’S MOTIVATION

After losses to Lazio, Roma, Inter and Juventus, big-spending AC Milan is in desperate need of a big win to provide job security for embattled manager Vincenzo Montella.

Milan, which was bought by a Chinese-led consortium in April, spent more than 200 million euros (nearly $250 million) on new players in the offseason but is struggling to stay in the Europa League places.

Napoli, meanwhile, is on course for its first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to the 1987 and 1990 championships.

But the southern club showed signs of weariness before the international break, following consecutive losses to Manchester City in the Champions League with a scoreless draw at Chievo Verona.

Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne should be motivated after being relegated to a bench role in Italy’s playoff loss to Sweden — which was seen as one of the main tactical reasons for the 1-0 aggregate defeat Monday.

Napoli will also need a win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday to keep alive its chances of reaching the Champions League knockout stages.

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JUVENTUS REACTION

No club is more associated with Italy’s squad than Juventus, so it will be interesting to see if Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini have recovered from Azzurri’s first failed qualification in six decades.

Both Buffon and Barzagli announced their national team retirements after the playoff, while Chiellini said he was debating retirement.

Full attention will be needed for a Sampdoria squad that has lost only twice.

Sampdoria features a combination of veterans like Fabio Quagliarella — who leads the squad with seven goals — and talented young players like 21-year-old midfielder Lucas Torreira — who leads the league in takeaways. Sampdoria has been able to improve despite an offseason overhaul that included high-profile sales of players like Patrik Schick, Milan Skriniar and Luis Muriel for a combined 70 million euros.

Juventus then hosts Barcelona in the Champions League on Wednesday looking to improve on the 3-0 loss to the Spanish club in September.

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REGIONAL RIVALS

Atalanta finished a club-record fourth last season and qualified for Europe for the first time in more than a quarter century.

But the Bergamo squad’s worst performance of the season came in a 7-1 rout by Inter Milan in March.

So Atalanta would love nothing more than to hand regional rival Inter its first loss of the season.

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More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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