Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, circa 1500. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, via Wikimedia Commons.
A yacht doesn’t sound like much of an investment when compared to a painting by Leonardo da Vinci, but according to one Oxford scholar, the Saudi family that allegedly flipped the $450 million dollar painting Salvator Mundi (circa 1500) for a boat, didn’t make a bad deal. Matthew Landrus, a leading art historian and professor at Oxford, claims that the world’s most expensive painting was only partially painted by Leonardo, and that the majority of the work was completed by his assistant Bernardino Luini, whose works usually sell for less than £1 million ($1.3 million).
“This is a Luini painting,” Landrus said. “By looking at the various versions of Leonardo’s students’ works, one can see that Luini paints just like that work you see in the Salvator Mundi.” He estimates that between 5 to 20 percent of the painting was executed by Leonardo.
Landrus isn’t the only person to cast doubt on the originator of the painting. “I don’t believe the attribution to Leonardo is correct,” said Todd Levin, a curator and art adviser at Levin Art Group in New York. Michael Daley, an artist and director of ArtWatch UK, concurred: “The Salvator Mundi is a heavily made-over wreck of a work with no history before 1900.”
The painting was sold at Christie’s last November and was purchased in a bidding war by Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. The painting will be unveiled in September at the Louvre Abu Dhabi before its inclusion in a major Leonardo exhibition at the Louvre in Paris next year.