A painting of Jesus Christ has fetched a stunning $450,312,500 — a historic sale that sets a record for the most expensive piece of artwork ever handed off at auction.
Painted by legendary artist Leonardo da Vinci, the work, titled, “Salvator Mundi,” has been the focal point of discussion in art circles in recent years, especially considering that so few of da Vinci’s paintings are still in existence.
“This stunning price reflects the extreme rarity of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci,” read a statement from Christie’s auction house. “There are fewer than 20 in existence acknowledged as being from the artist’s own hand, and all apart from Salvator Mundi are in museum collections.”
The painting was reportedly completed around the year 1500 and it wasn’t until 2005 that it was rediscovered, restored and verified before sparking what Christie’s described as an intense media sensation.
Christie’s Global President Jussi Pylkkänen called selling the painting the “pinnacle” of his career.
“It is every auctioneer’s ambition to sell a Leonardo and likely the only chance I will ever have,” Pylkkänen said. “It’s the pinnacle of my career so far. It is also wonderful for an Old Master to be at the centre of such attention.”
It’s understandable why Pylkkänen is so excited. After all, the Jesus painting crushed the previous $179,364,992 auction record that was held by Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger,” as The Washington Post noted.
The identity of the winning bidder isn’t yet known. But what is generally known is the complex, centuries-long history behind the painting, which some people previously believed — even as recent as 2007 — to be merely a copy of the original. Further testing, though, proved that it is, indeed, a da Vinci original.
Over the centuries, the painting disappeared and reemerged in various collections. But perhaps the most shocking detail is that it sold in 1958 for just £45, which would be just $60 today.
You can read a recap of the fascinating history here.