Portrait of Christ by da Vinci sells for record $611m

Da Vinci work fetches record $611m

To the 27,000 people who lined up at pre-auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and NY to glimpse the painting of Christ as "Savior of the World", this was merely the chance to lay their eyes on what Christie's billed as "the Last da Vinci", the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection (some 15 others are in museums).

"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time", Loic Gouzer, Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, New York, said before the sale. Christie's did not identify the seller, other than to say it was a European private collector.

The highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million (152 million euros), for Picasso's "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in NY.

The artwork has been the subject of legal disputes and amassed a price history that ranges from less than $10,000 in 2005, when it was spotted at an estate auction, to $200 million when it was first offered for sale by a consortium of three dealers in 2012.

Punches were thrown by the millions, with the price jumping from $US332 million to $US350 million in one bid, then, after 18 minutes, from $US370 million to $US400 million, the price the hammer came down on.

Christie's is the auction house conducting the sale.

The 500-year-old oil on panel depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand.

Its path from Leonardo's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth.

According to Christie's, the painting once belonged to King Charles I of England in the mid-1600s. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

"The excitement from the public for this work of art has been overwhelming and hugely heartening", he said.

The painting was said to be the last Leonardo in private hands and "the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century".

Da Vinci's last piece of work, the "Horse and Rider" sculpture, sold for $11 million in 2001.

Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie's postwar and contemporary art department, said the work of art attracted crowds of people while on exhibition in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY in the weeks leading up to Wednesday's auction. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one's mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them - both the "Mona Lisa" and "Salvator Mundi" are ideal examples of this. Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in NY, called the painting "spectacular".

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