The Wall Street Journal picks up on ArtNews magazine’s announcement that lost Leonardo da Vinci work, Salvator Mundi, has been uncovered by restorers and will be featured in a show of the artist’s work at the National Gallery in London this November.
The painting was bought by a group of dealers who hoped it might be by a follower of the Renaissance master. Instead, according to Milton Esterow, it turns out to be the real thing (with better support than the other recent claims by a dealer that he had found a da Vinci.) Rumors of the find began to leak out at the beginning of the year.
Here’s ArtNews recounting the story:
The work is owned by a consortium of dealers, including Robert Simon, a specialist in Old Masters in New York and Tuxedo Park, N.Y. It was reportedly bought at an estate sale in the United States about six or seven years ago. Simon declined to comment about the painting, the price, or the location of the auction. “I’ve been asked not to discuss it,” he said.
One scholar said that the consortium had turned down an offer of $100 million for the painting. “I was told they’re asking $200 million for it,” he told me.
Simon brought the panel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art about two years ago to have it examined by several curators and conservators. “It was brought in for inspection in the conservation studio,” said a person close to the Metropolitan who asked not to be identified. “The painting was forgotten for years. When it turned up at auction, Simon thought it was worth taking a gamble. It had been heavily overpainted, which makes it look like a copy. It was a wreck, dark and gloomy. It had been cleaned many times in the past by people who didn’t know better. Once a restorer put artificial resin on it, which had turned gray and had to be removed painstakingly. When they took off the overpaint, what was revealed was the original paint. You saw incredibly delicate painting. All agree it was painted by Leonardo.”
Salvator Mundi—an oil on wood panel measuring 26 inches by 18.5 inches—is a devotional work comparable in size and subject to Leonardo’s St. John the Baptist in the Louvre in Paris.
According to a person familiar with the painting’s history, restorers began work on Salvator Mundi in the hope that it might be by someone closely associated with Leonardo because of stylistic evidence. Leonardo’s hand was confirmed after the removal of layers of discolored varnish and overpaint applied by earlier restoration attempts.
This person said that the idea of finding a lost Leonardo was “not something a rational person would really believe.” The composition was known from a 1650s engraving by Wenceslaus Hollar.
Long Lost Leonardo (ArtNews)
Leonardo da Vinci Painting to be Revealed (Wall Street Journal)