Controversial Da Vinci is New York auction season star
Controversial Da Vinci is New York auction season star
“Salvator Mundi,” a painting of Jesus Christ by the Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500, is the star lot in New York’s November art auctions that will see Christie’s and Sotheby’s chase combined art sales of more than $1 billion.
It goes under the hammer at Christie’s on Wednesday, something of an incongruous lot in the post-war and contemporary evening sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of international billionaire art collectors.
The auction house, which declines to comment on the controversy and identifies the seller only as a European collector, has valued it at $100 million.
“Look at the painting, it is an extraordinary work of art,” said Francois de Poortere, head of the old master’s department at Christie’s. “That’s what we should focus on.”
But the price will be closely watched — not just as one of fewer than 20 paintings by Da Vinci’s hand accepted to exist, but by its owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of soccer club AS Monaco who is suing Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier in the city-state.
Rybolovlev accuses Bouvier of conning him out of hundreds of million dollars in parting with an eye-watering $2.1 billion on 37 masterpieces. One of those works was “Salvator Mundi” which has been exhibited at The National Gallery in London.
Bouvier bought the Da Vinci at Sotheby’s for $80 million in 2013. He resold it to the Russian tycoon for $127.5 million.
The painting’s rarity is difficult to overstate. For years it was presumed to have been destroyed. In 1958, it fetched £45 and disappeared again for decades, emerging only in 2005 when it was purchased from a US estate.
It was long believed to have been a copy, before eventually being certified as authentic. All other known paintings by Da Vinci are held in museum or institutional collections.
“For auction specialists, this is pretty much the Holy Grail,” Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of Christie’s Americas post-war and contemporary art department, has said. “It doesn’t really get better than that.”
Christie’s has sought to emphasize Da Vinci’s inestimable contribution to art history by hanging “Salvator Mundi” next to Andy Warhol’s “Sixty Last Suppers” — which depicts Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” 60 times over, also on sale with a $50 million estimate.
Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His “The Women of Algiers (Version O)” fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in New York in 2015.
Other highlights being offered by the auction house are “Contraste de formes,” a 1913 Fernand Leger valued at $65 million and “Laboureur dans un champ” by Van Gogh, painted from the window of a French asylum in 1889 valued at $50 million.
Sotheby’s, whose May sales languished behind Christie’s, says it has more than 60 works making their auction debuts this week.
Chief among them is Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of George Dyer,” valued at $35-45 million, and which it says is appearing in public for the first time in 50 years.
Painted in 1966 during his passionate relationship with Dyer, two other such triptychs are in museums and two others have been offered at auction in recent years.
Sotheby’s other star lot is a 1972 Warhol “Mao,” exhibited in Berlin, Turin and Paris, and now back in public view for the first time since 1974. It has been given an estimate of $30-40 million.
Each of the other 10 “Mao” paintings of the same size are in prestigious public and private collections, including the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. Sotheby’s calls it one of the most iconic images of the 20th century.
But for the first time, the house has added a collector car to an art auction, offering Michael Schumacher’s Grand Prix-Winning Ferrari for upwards of $4million on Thursday. But is it a work of art?
“No, it’s not,” says Gregoire Billault, senior Sotheby’s vice president. “But it’s... the very best racing car ever sold at an auction.”
Mystery Egypt sarcophagus found not to house Alexander the Great’s remains
- The unmarked tomb in Alexandria did not likely belong to any other notable ruler in the Ptolemaic period (332 BC-30 BC) associated with Alexander the Great, or the subsequent Roman era
- The location of the remains of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC in Babylon, remains a mystery
ALEXANDRIA, Egypt: Egyptian archaeologists on Thursday dashed local hopes that a newly discovered ancient sarcophagus might contain the remains of Alexander the Great, finding instead the mummies of what appeared to be a family of three.
Workmen inadvertently unearthed the approximately 2,000-year-old black granite sealed sarcophagus this month during the construction of an apartment building in the historic Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
The 30-ton coffin is the largest yet found in Alexandria, prompting a swirl of theories in local and international media that it may be the resting place of the ancient Greek ruler who in 331 BC founded the city that still bears his name.
Egypt’s antiquities ministry had vigorously dismissed the chances of finding Alexander’s remains inside the 30-ton sarcophagus and on Thursday its skepticism was vindicated.
“We found the bones of three people, in what looks like a family burial... Unfortunately the mummies inside were not in the best condition and only the bones remain,” Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters at the site.
Waziri said some of the remains had disintegrated because sewage water from a nearby building had leaked into the sarcophagus through a small crack in one of the sides.
The location of the remains of Alexander the Great, who died in 323 BC in Babylon, remains a mystery.
The sarcophagus in Alexandria is the latest of a series of interesting archaeological finds this year in Egypt that include a 4,400-year-old tomb in Giza and an ancient necropolis in Minya, south of Cairo.
The unmarked tomb in Alexandria did not likely belong to any other notable ruler in the Ptolemaic period (332 BC-30 BC) associated with Alexander the Great, or the subsequent Roman era, Waziri said.
The prospect of opening the long-sealed sarcophagus had stirred fears in Egyptian media that it could unleash a 1,000-year curse.
“We’ve opened it and, thank God, the world has not fallen into darkness, said Waziri.
“I was the first to put my whole head inside the sarcophagus... and here I stand before you ... I am fine.”