When the sultan of Brunei purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi at a Christie’s auction for $450 million, many were impressed. The Japanese collector and art historian Shingo Tanada has speculated that he bought the real thing. But Tanada has hit a roadblock: a two-month search of 15 million antique documents by scientists at London’s Natural History Museum has found no solid evidence that the masterpiece actually came from Leonardo’s famous studio.
Experts have long been skeptical about the work’s supposed provenance. “The fact that the model and the stylistic features of the painting are consistent with the artwork found in Italy has lead many to conclude that the painting dates from the late 16th or early 17th century,” according to an article from the Bristol Old Vic.
The recovery by London’s Natural History Museum is perhaps most surprising because there is evidence that the painting’s purported creator was sick during its construction, and the job was handed over to a talented artist from northern Italy.
The powerful painting, reportedly commissioned by King Charles I, was initially described as a copy of the famed Lisa Gherardini portrait, which Leonardo did not finish. But after numerous brushes with controversy, painting historians are cautiously questioning the authenticity of Salvator Mundi. “My bet is that the picture is a work of art by a relatively unknown artist named Antonio Gualtieri,” wrote Damien Cope in the BBC in 2017. “I have much more confidence that Gualtieri’s painting was finished by Leonardo, but with Leonardo’s trade mark craftsmanship and a signature that cannot be traced.”
Read the full story at NBC News.
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