According to an announcement made by the owner, the infamous Salvator Mundi painting will no longer feature in the upcoming Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. This follows reports that the museum’s Curators were unable to agree whether it was painted by Leonardo or his workshop.
The Salvator Mundi shot to fame in 2017 when it became the most expensive artwork ever to sell at auction. In a Christie’s New York sale, the painting was purchased for a record-breaking $450 million (£335 million). The buyer’s identity – initially shrouded in mystery – was later disclosed to be Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud.
Even before the Christie’s sale, scholars fiercely debated its attribution to Leonardo due to the extensive conservation the painting had received.
Ben Lewis, author of The Last Leonardo, claimed museum experts were increasingly casting doubt on Leonardo’s name: “The Louvre Paris have asked the Louvre Abu Dhabi if they could borrow it for their exhibition – that’s official. But my inside sources at the Louvre, various sources, tell me that not many Louvre curators think this is an autograph [real] Leonardo da Vinci and if they did exhibit it, they really want to exhibit it as ‘workshop’”.
Exhibiting the painting as ‘workshop’ of Leonardo would be likely to have a big impact on its value. For example, in 2007 the Salvator Mundi sold for only $1,000 (£795) because it was attributed as ‘after’ Leonardo da Vinci.
In February, the Louvre requested the Salvator Mundi for its blockbuster exhibition Da Vinci 500 years, which will open at the end of this year. The museum is expecting unprecedented visitor numbers for the show and has released timed tickets to help ease overcrowding.
But now the Saudi Prince refuses to lend the painting to the Louvre in light of the Louvre’s potential ‘workshop’ attribution. The Louvre Abu Dhabi also planned to display the Salvator Mundi last September, yet it never appeared. Its current location is unknown, although it is believed to be in a storage facility in Switzerland.