There was an astonishing sale at Christie’s, the last privately held da Vinci, supposedly, for an unprecedented amount of money: over $450 million dollars. The Russian connection is of interest, as is the doubtful provenance of the painting. There’s also the problem of such a painting, if it’s a true da Vinci, going into private hands. No museum could possibly have coughed up over 400 million for it.
Last night, Christie’s auction house sold “Salvator Mundi,” which it claims is the last painting by Leonardo da Vinci in private hands, for an astounding, record-setting $400M (the final price was over $450M with fees). The sale was controversial for a couple of reasons: that mind-numbing number itself, but also the fact that there are a lot of questions — and serious doubts — about the painting’s authenticity, restoration, and provenance.
One can therefore be forgiven for initially overlooking another elephant in the room — the identity of the seller. When there’s this much money involved, though, it usually pays to follow it, and here the money leads directly back to the Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev. Rybolovlev’s family trust sold the painting, through Christie’s, to an undisclosed buyer, but if his name sounds familiar for other reasons, that might be because in 2008 he paid (through a company he controlled) $95M to buy a Palm Beach mansion from Donald Trump.
You can read more about this at Hyperallergic, and there’s an earlier article too. The earlier article is disheartening, to say the least, as half of all the world’s wealth is in a very small circle of people, while little money ever goes to all those things which make for a healthy society. Once again, I’m reminded of A Perfect Circle’s new beatitude…