• gerard van weyenbergh

Bought $10,000 by dealers in 2005, Da Vinci art sells $ 450M in 2017?

An art historian has accused the National Gallery in London of inflating the price of Leonardo da Vinci's painting Salvator Mundi, which sold for $ 450.3 million at Christie's in 2017 after it was exhibited as an autograph piece without informing the public of the doubts surrounding its attribution.

Charles Hope was astonished that the artwork, presented within the framework of the exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci, Painter of the court of Milan" was already offered for sale. His colleague Ben Lewis confirmed, but Nicholas Penny, the National Gallery's former director, has denied.

Remark that the work had been bought in 2005 for 10,000 dollars by a group of dealers when it was considered only a copy. The presentation six years later at the National Gallery had suddenly given it a special status to make it become the most expensive painting in the world.

For Hope, Robert Simon, one of the dealers who bought the painting in 2005, had exploited the National Gallery's information to make admit that it was authentic. In contrast, the museum had participated, perhaps against its will, in a huge marketing operation without counting that Simon and his associates had set about trying to sell it in 2009 by offering it in particular at the Louvre, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Vatican, the Prado and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.

The consortium then aimed to encourage one of these museums to accept the work as authentic before finding patrons to acquire it, said Ben Lewis. Simon had withdrawn it from the market between July 2011 and February 2012 not to embarrass the National Gallery, which insisted that it was not for sale during its exhibition. © Adrian Darmon Video