An eerie painting of Christ holding a glass orb in one hand and making a benediction with the other, all the while leveling an otherworldly stare at the viewer, has been authenticated as a long-lost Leonardo da Vinci portrait, putting it "up there with any artistic discovery of the last 100 years," according to ARTnews. Called "Salvator Mundi" ("Savior of the World"), the painting will now go on view in a Leonardo show opening at London's National Gallery in November, and it is said to carry an asking price of $200 million.
Unearthed at an estate sale about six years ago, the two-foot-tall oil-on-wood-panel painting is now owned by "a consortium of dealers," including New York-based specialist Robert Simon, who have had the work reviewed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art among other institutions. It was only after layers of varnish from poor earlier restorations had been removed that experts judged the work to be the missing masterpiece, once passed down from Charles I to Charles II of Britain and documented by a Wenceslaus Hollar engraving dating from the 1750s. According to ItalianRenaissanceArt.com, the painting was originally commissioned by Louis XII of France and completed in 1513.
While the circumstances around the find remain hush-hush — the ARTnews report is full of anonymous sources — the scholars said to have been involved with the remarkable attribution include world-renowned Oxford University Leonardo expert Martin Kemp and Met curator Carmen Bambach, who were part of a special team convened by National Gallery director Nicholas Penny. The painting, of which only a black-and-white image has been release publicly, is said to fully exhibit the Renaissance master's hand and feature such details as Christ's fine garb "painted in blue with a miraculous softness."
Thematically, the painting shows a dramatically different version of the Christian savior from "The Last Supper," with Christ shown here in his role as the judge winnowing the blessed flock from the damned. How it will itself be judged by the art community when it is displayed remains to be seen. "The Madonna of the Pinks," another Renaissance masterpiece displayed at the National Gallery, having been attributed to Raphael by Penny himself and purchased in 2004 for £34.88 million, has been contested by several art historians. According to ARTnews, eyebrows have already been raised about the museum showing the Leonardo, considering its sky-high price tag.