Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi is going to the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is going to the new Louvre Abu Dhabi, the art gallery tweeted on Wednesday.

But there’s still no public information on who purchased the painting at the record-setting auction in November, when the controversial artwork went for $ 450.3 million US at Christie’s, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.

Before the auction, Christie’s valued it at $ 100 million US.

The Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”) has been called ethereal, mysterious, spooky and touted as a long-lost painting by the Renaissance master. 

Dating from the 1500s, the painting was billed as the final Leonardo work held in private hands, one of roughly 20 paintings attributed to him. 

Depicting a half-length, front-facing Christ figure grasping a crystal orb in one hand, with the other raised in a gesture of benediction, the work was put up for sale by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who had purchased it in 2013.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi officially opened Nov. 11 in the United Arab Emirates.

Through its collaboration with the Louvre in Paris and other French museums, the new gallery, the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula, displays works by Vincent Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, contemporary Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei and Leonardo’s La Belle Ferronniere.

In an interview with CBC News three weeks ago, art market specialist and York University professor Don Thompson predicted it might get the Salvator Mundi. 

With it, the new gallery “can have a centrepiece which will be known around the world,” he said. 

Emirates Louvre

The Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates opened to the public on Nov. 11. (Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press)

Authenticity still debated

Long believed an artwork by one of Leonardo’s pupils, the original painting was covered over by a subsequent artist. The walnut panel base, which has been described as “worm-tunnelled,” also split in half at some point. Earlier attempts to join the two halves and restore the work resulted in abrasions and also removed delicate details from the original. 

Because of all this, the Salvator Mundi was only recently authenticated by experts, including those at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. American art expert Robert Simon discovered it for sale at a regional U.S. auction in 2005 and, on a hunch, invested in years of cleaning, restoration and research. In 2011, it was billed as a true piece by Leonardo and included in the British National Gallery’s exhibit Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. 

Since then, controversy has swirled around the painting. Its authenticity is still debated. Some wonder if the painted-over and over-cleaned panel might actually be a piece on which Leonardo collaborated with a pupil. 

Still others remain dubious because of the “incorrect” depiction of the orb, arguing the science-obsessed artist would have surely depicted the object’s light-refraction accurately.

Record-breaking bid for da Vinci0:58

(Reference: CBC.ca)

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