Salvator Mundi.
Leonardo's lost Painting?

 The Salvator Mundi (saviour of the World) was commissioned by Louis XII of France in 1506 and Leonardo had finished the work by 1513. The image of Christ giving his blessing to the world was a popular subject in French and Flemish art and the half-length pose is typical of the era. 

  On the death of his wife the painting was donated, by Louis, to a religious order who had connections with his wife, in Nantes. A century later Henrietta Maria, Queen of England, saw the painting in 1650 (the year after her husband Charles Ist was executed) she asked the artist Wenceslaus Hollar to make an etching of the work to add to her collection.

 In the 19th century the convent that possessed the painting was dissolved and the Salvator Mundi was sold to Baron de Lareinty of Paris. After subsequent sales the work came into the possession of the present owner the Marquis de Ganay.  

Salvator Mundi. Jan Louis de Ganay collection Paris. (s) 

Is this really by Leonardo?

 Various tests conducted on the painting have convinced many historians that the painting is authentic. X-rays show that the paint had been applied in thin layers on a wooden base, nut wood was used for this work and also Leonardo's St John of the same period. The swirl of the hair is said to be reminiscent of other da Vinci portraits and historians point to similarities in the shadows of the face and the angle of the light to support the authenticity.

 The work has been altered since Leonardo's day, the orb originally supported a cross that has since been removed and a thick coat of varnish has been added to the painting. 

Personal Opinion:-

 It is not in doubt that Leonardo did complete a painting of this title, the documentary evidence is beyond question. It is estimated that seventy-five percent of all Leonardo's works are still lost and this very strong image could well be one of them. However today's art world contains lots of individuals who know far more about the financial implications of any new discovery than they know about the actual paintings themselves. A new painting by an artist as famous as Leonardo da Vinci would  inevitably create a buzz within the art world and it is very likely that values across a range of works would increase as a result.

 This painting almost appears too modern for da Vinci. Christ's right hand and sleeve are tightly finished as are the ringlets of the hair, they seem to lack the smokiness of Leonardo's sfumato. The modelling of the face seems quite flat, when I first saw this work, and at first glance, it reminded me of an overworked Modigliani (that is not intended to be a criticism).

 I admire this work very much, it just seems so fresh and alive, and would certainly like to own it regardless of who painted it. In conclusion I do hope that this is by da Vinci, who would have been about sixty-one years old at the time it was painted, but I wouldn't bet my house on it. 

Leonardo exhibition at :-
The National Gallery, London. 9 November 2011 - 5 February 2012. 

There are around twenty versions of Salvator Mundi and this recently restored painting exhibits more of the Leonardo-like qualities that we have come to expect from the master, however no pre-restoration images or method of cleaning have so far been released.

 Salvator Mundi c.1500. Oil on walnut panel 65.6 x 45.4 cm. Leonardo da Vinci? (w)

Personal Opinion:-

I find this version of the Salvator Mundi much more convincing, the sfumato effect displays a subtleness that is very Leonardo, also the luminosity on the chest and forehead of Christ is pure da Vinci. The transparent crystal orb in Christ's left hand is a confident statement that is absent from other copies of the subject and the overall depth of the work has a hypnotic quality that draws the viewer deeper into the painting. Of course we don't know the scale of the restoration or how much of the work has been striped back, hopefully the process will be made available to the public in the not too distant future.

 I will be visiting the exhibition at the National Gallery early in 2012 to view the work first hand this will allow me to make comparisons with other Leonardo works on display at the same venue. 

 Visited Sunday 22 January 2012 (fantastic exhibition) read the review.

This painting is documented in the collection of King Charles I of England in 1649 before it was sold at auction by the Duke of Buckingham's son in 1763. It was purchased in 1900 by Sir Frederick Cook a British art dealer. Where the work had been stored between these dates is unknown however it is clear that several previous poor restoration attempts had made the painting very difficult to authenticate, it was sold at auction in 1958 for £45.     

 In 2005 the work was acquired by a consortium of US art dealers and restored. The   painting has since been studied by several experts on Da Vinci and the renaissance period, the consensus is that this work was painted by Leonardo da Vinci and is the original from which the many copies depend. In a bold move by the National Gallery they will be cataloguing the painting as a newly discovered Leonardo. 

Note:- The exhibition ended on February 5 2012. However a worldwide cinema showing is  planned, details available from the National Gallery. 

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