Leonardo da Vinci is widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived. His areas of interest included painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, anatomy and astronomy.
Two of the most famous paintings of all time, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper were painted by da Vinci. His journals are packed with innovative ideas and inventions that were far ahead of his time.
London-based Christie’s auction house handled the record-setting sale and collected a cool $50 million of the sale price for their efforts. To generate interest in the painting, Christie’s embarked on an extensive marketing campaign. It displayed the painting at several major cities around the world, produced a video about the painting for key figures in the art world, and referred to the painting as “the last da Vinci,” since it is the last of da Vinci’s works that is still privately-owned.
The hottest paintings in the art world today are works of contemporary art. Before the sale of Salvator Mundi, the previous record amount paid for a work of art was $300 million paid for Interchange, a contemorary work by Willem de Kooning. So Christie’s also helped boost Mundi’s price by including the painting in a sale of contemporary works of art even though it is the work of an old master.
Scholars believe da Vinci painted Mundi around 1500. After spending centuries in obscurity, Mundi was rediscovered in 2005 in Louisiana. A New York art collector paid $10,000 for it thinking it was a copy. But during the restoration process experts concluded it was an authentic work by the master. In 2013 it sold for $80 million and soon after that it was sold for $125.7 million. Some experts still insist it is not an original da Vinci and apparently the paining is slightly damaged.
The painting itself beautiful so even if it is not a da Vinci, whoever painted it was quite talented.
The term Salvator Mundi is Latin for Savior of the world. Christians interpret this to mean that it is a painting of Jesus Christ since we believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. The figure in the painting is holding up his right hand in a gesture of blessing and his left hand is holding a clear glass sphere respresenting the world. He is looking straight ahead with an expression that is reminiscent of the Mona Lisa.
It would be fascinating to hear what Jesus would have to say about a painting of him fetching $450 million. Some thought it was a waste of money when a woman anointed Jesus’ feet with a very expensive ointment. Jesus said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Matthew 26:6-10, ESV)
As the celebration of his birth approaches this month, we are reminded that the one who is confessed as the Savior of the world, the almighty, eternal Son of God, chose to enter this world as the child of Joseph and Mary, a poor, humble pair of newleyweds. A manger was his first resting place and things didn’t ever really get any better for Jesus throughout his earthly life.
He was betrayed into the hands of his murderous enemies for a mere 30 pieces of silver and lost all his clothes, the only possessions he owned, when he was crucified. Yet billions of people around the world still claim him as their “Salvator.”
The person who bought Salvator Mundi came forward a few weeks after the purchase. He is Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a little-known Saudi Arabian prince from a remote branch of the royal family. The fact that a painting of Jesus was purchased by a Saudi prince is a whole story in itself.
In Matthew 13 Jesus tells two parables about the value people place on salvation: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, ESV)
Although he apparently never had any money, Jesus said a lot about it, including the following: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24, ESV) “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13, ESV) “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, ESV)
Someday, no doubt, Salvator Mundi will no longer hold the record for the highest price paid for a work of art. But in my view, no one will ever replace Jesus as the true Savior of the Word. And that is worth more than all the money in the world.
Here is a picture of someone taking a cell phone pciture of da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.
And here is a picture of Interchange, the painting by Willem de Kooning that held the previous record sale price for a work of art.