The Leonardo da Vinci painting “Salvator Mundi” became the most expensive in the world last year, and the story behind its sale is one of the art world’s strangest capers. For decades, the da Vinci hung undiscovered in the home of Louisiana man who owned a sheet-metal company, and was eventually sold in 2005 for less than $10,000. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bought “Salvator Mundi” for $450.3 million at auction in 2017.
When Basil Clovis Hendry Sr. bought the painting at a London auction in 1958, the artist behind the work was believed to be Giovanni Boltraffio, a less-celebrated student of da Vinci’s. The sale closed at £45, the equivalent of $120.
Since the 2005 sale, the work has been reauthenticated as a da Vinci. The “Salvator Mundi” has been owned by British and now Saudi royalty and by Russian oligarchs. The missing piece of its history as we know now is the years it spent lost in obscurity among a multitude of other religious paintings in the home of a Baton Rouge businessman.
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