• gerard van weyenbergh

Multiple flaws in the most expensive painting in the world part 2

Entrusted in 2005 to Dianne Modestini, head of the conservation department at New York University, the intervention consisted of removing layers of varnish and repainting excessively damaged parts. So much so that Christ reappeared miraculously. Too many, according to several professionals who consider this restoration so heavy that it now makes it impossible to comment on a possible attribution to Leonardo! This is what Carmen Bambach, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, asserts from the outset, who instead sees the hand of one of her students, Giovanni Boltraffio, with very slight interventions by Leonardo. Others, such as Frank Zöllner, author of an imposing monograph published by Taschen, or Charles Hope, former director of the Warburg Institute in London, remain cautious but do not support attribution. As for art historian Carlo Pedretti, an eminent specialist in Leonardo, his silence is eloquent. But what are these unspoken and quarrels of specialists worth in view of an art market increasingly hungry for rare masterpieces? Known by the museum, the painting is now ready for the big sale that the Christie's machine will orchestrate without qualms.


If the painting indeed emanates from the workshop of the Florentine genius, it cannot be of his hand, or then less than 10%.

However, too many inaccuracies remain, too many blunders too , to firmly attribute this Salvator Mundi at Vinci. This thesis defended by Jacques Franck, world expert in the Vincentian technique attached to the Pedretti foundation. For him, if the painting indeed emanates from the workshop of the Florentine genius, it cannot be of his hand, or less than 10%. Jacques Franck thus invokes a series of blunders unworthy of Leonardo, "the stiffness and the absence of naturalness of the curls of the hair, a lack of volume of the globe, the folds of the garment devoid of flexibility". "The raised finger of Christ's right hand follows an axis which makes it appear deformed, while, for his left hand (much too small to be in the foreground), the simplistic conception of the drawing is incompatible with the genius of an anatomist. of Leonardo". No doubt in his eyes: the composition of Salvator Mundi is "too systematic and archaic" to be of his hand. Jacques Franck also recalls that at the time when the work would have been painted (the years 1500–1510), the artist was already busy with his research as a military engineer and had started working on three of his greatest chefs. -work, the Saint Anne , the Mona Lisa as well as the Battle of Anghiari (destroyed).


In order to respond to orders, he relied on his students and disciples , who followed his cartoons or made copies of the master. The author of Salvator Mundi could well be one of them.

Jacques Franck leans for his main collaborator at the time, Andrea Salai (c. 1480–1524), whose real name is Gian Giacomo Caprotti, who entered Leonardo's studio at the age of 10, model of certain works and whose androgynous beauty is at the origin of speculations making him Leonardo's lover. The specialist made the connection between Salvator Mundi and a Christ signed by Salai (dated 1511) kept in Milan. Put side by side, the infrared reflectography of the two works reveals the same outline, very thick, for the contour of the face and the periphery of the hair in the underlying drawing. "A brutality of line typical of the way of proceeding of Salai and which one does not find in Léonard", specifies Jacques Franck.

Andrea Salai (Gian Giacomo Caprotti), Christ , 1511


art expert
Salai, the redeemer, © Ambrosiana Milano

"The master could have done some retouching on the work , such as the palm and folded fingers of the right hand."

Attributed to Salai, Salvator Mundi would not be for all that unworthy of interest. But it would not have soared to several hundred million dollars! These are all elements that the Louvre must consider for the retrospective scheduled for 2019 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death. Will the Parisian establishment be able to demonstrate the necessary wisdom? Asked about RTL, its president Jean-Luc Martinez has already declared that he wanted to see him appear in the exhibition. One more step in recognition of this very controversial painting? It was finally not exhibited at the retrospective.

Would a pupil of Leonardo be the real author of "Salvator Mundi"?

Is this a work by the hand of Vinci or that of his disciple Salai, as Jacques Franck maintains? The thick underlying contour lines (revealed by the infrared) are unmistakable signs for the specialist: they are typical of Salai ... From modest condition, Salai ("little devil") was collected at the age age 10 by Leonardo, who nicknamed him because of his propensity to steal or break objects. He became his disciple then a confirmed artist in his studio and his main collaborator when Salvator Mundi was painted. For Jacques Franck, Salai could also be the author of the famous copy of the Mona Lisa kept at the Prado, the recent restoration of which had revealed that it was a workshop work executed alongside and as the same time original. Very close to Leonardo, Salai would have obtained the master, just before his death, he gives him the Mona Lisa and other paintings that he sells them for a fortune to Francois I king of France.


Beaux arts magazine : Daphne Betard