Salvator Mundi, Marquis de Ganay version.
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.
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.
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.