Salvator Mundi, the last Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands, makes its appearance in Hong Kong before it goes on sale at Christie’s New York. The unveiling of Salvator Mundi has attracted a throng of journalists gathering in the showroom. There are only 15 surviving paintings by Da Vinci and this is the last and only one in private hands. The rediscovery of the painting has caused sensation to the world. The Value takes this unique opportunity to interview Francois de Poortere, Head of Old Master Paintings, and Loic Gouzer, Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Art department.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Salvator Mundi.
Size: 65.7 x 45.7cm
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Post-war and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Auction date: 2017/11/15
Public viewing in Hong Kong:
2017/10/13｜1pm - 5:30pm
2017/10/14｜10:30am - 5:30pm
2017/10/15｜10:30am - 5:30pm
2017/10/16｜10:30am - 2pm
Q: Why is the painting called the “Male Mona Lisa”?
F: The reason it is called the “Male Mona Lisa” because it was painted at the same time. Technically, it has a lot of same aspects as that Mona Lisa has. Just look at his chest, the ways that lines fall on his chest and you look at the lines fall on Mona Lisa’s chest. They are very similar. Leonardo da Vinci developed this technique, which he called the “sfumato”. It is the very soft outline of the figure, which is something that you see in this picture, just as much as you see it in the Mona Lisa.
Q: In the Bible, Jesus is mostly depicted as wearing red or scarlet robes. Why does the Jesus figure in this painting wear blue robes?
F: The dress that he is wearing is typically a dress that you would have seen male figures wearing in the 16th century. The blue that you see here is a special pigment called “lapis lazuli”. It is an expensive pigment that Leonard used on several occasions. It suggested the painting was commissioned by an important patron, someone who could have afforded that sort of pigment. It also survives time beautifully as you can see the blue is still in dense and well-rendered.
Q: Why doesn’t this painting depict a halo at Jesus’ back like other Renaissance paintings?
F: It is a high Renaissance painting. You do see those kinds of halos in earlier pictures. Leonardo here decided to depict Jesus without the halo, who is clearly representing the divine of this painting.
Q: What’s the symbolic meaning of the crystal orb that Jesus is holding?
F: The crystal orb is the representation of the world. He (Jesus) is here blessing with his other hand for humanity.
It is unusual to see old master paintings like this to be auctioned at Post-war and Contemporary Art Sale. We therefore asked Loic Gouzer, the chairman of the deparment, about the reason for this interesting arrangement.
Loic Gouzer, Post-War & Contemporary Art, Chairman
Q: Why is this old master painting put on “Post-war and Contemporary art” sale?
L: We have a work by Andy Warhol called ‘’Sixty Last Suppers’’, which is made after Da Vinci’s ‘’Last Supper’’. It’s a very important work by Warhol. We thought it was very interesting to put them in dialogue because every contemporary artist, every post-war artist and pretty much every artist looks at Da Vinci as an influence.
Andy Warhol's Sixty Last Suppers
L (continue): Da Vinci is like the beginning of other history. He is almost uncategorizable that you cannot put him in a category or another one. We thought he is very contemporary as He doesn’t get old. His images are reproduced all the time all around the world. We thought having it in the contemporary sale is the best platform.
Q: Can you name some artists that are influenced by Leonardo da Vinci?
L: Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and the list goes on. Pretty much every artist studies him. When you start at art school, you start with Renaissance and you start with Da Vinci.
Left: Andy Warhol ; Right:Jean-Michel Basquiat
Q: How do you appreciate this masterpiece?
L: I grew up looking at art and I was lucky enough to travel to Uffizi in Florence, to Italy, to England, to Paris, the Louvre. I saw all the paintings and I grew up with them, thinking about them. For everybody who thinks about art or collects art, they saw those works or they know about them. And this one is an actual Da Vinci painting. It is an incredible honour to have to sell the only one left in private hands.
Uffizi Gallery Museum
Q: How did Christie’s secure this rare masterpiece?
L: It was a discussion that’s been going on for a year, which involved a lot of convincing. It had been kept as a big secret and very few people knew about it even in the company. Works by Da Vinci are priceless. It is almost impossible to give a price. It is only worth what others are ready to pay for it. We had to agree on a price to start and then we agreed US$100m was a right way to start. We had people calling us saying this painting should be worth US$3 billion to 4 billion.
Q: So is US$100m a conservative estimate?
L: US$100m is a big amount of money. It is more than what we will make in a lifetime. In some extent, there are other works that sold for US$200m, 250m. In a way, you could say this is a conservative estimate