(CN) – Christie’s will offer Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” the last of his paintings known to be in private hands, at its evening sale of post-war and contemporary art on Nov. 15 in New York.
The auction house expects it to fetch upwards of $100 million.
“Salvator Mundi” is one of fewer than 20 known paintings by da Vinci, and it re-emerged, in the auction house’s words, in 2005 — the first such discovery of a da Vinci painting since 1909.
The sale will take place after exhibitions of the painting in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York.
Dating from around 1500, the haunting oil on panel painting depicts a half-length figure of Christ as savior of the world, facing frontally and dressed in flowing robes of lapis and crimson.
He holds a crystal orb in his left hand as he raises his right hand in benediction. Leonardo’s painting of “Salvator Mundi” was long believed to have existed but was generally presumed to have been destroyed until it was rediscovered 12 years ago.
“’Salvator Mundi’ is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” said Loic Gouzer, Christi’s chairman of post-war and contemporary art. “The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honor that comes around once in a lifetime.
“Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries. We felt that offering this painting within the context of our Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale is a testament to the enduring relevance of this picture,” Gouzer said.
It is believed that “Salvator Mundi” was painted around the same time as the “Mona Lisa,” a belief inspired by their patent compositional likeness.
The painting was first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I, 1600-1649, and is thought to have hung in the private chambers of his wife, Henrietta Maria in her palace in Greenwich. It was later in the collection of Charles II.
“Salvator Mundi” was next recorded in a 1763 sale by Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, who put it into auction following the sale of what is now Buckingham Palace to the king.
It then disappeared until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work by Leonardo’s follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection, Doughty House, Richmond.
Shortly afterward, with the authorship by Leonardo by forgotten, Christ’s face and hair were overpainted.
In the dispersal of the Cook Collection, it was ultimately consigned to a sale at Sotheby’s in 1958 where it sold for the equivalent of $59.
It disappeared once again for nearly 50 years, emerging in 2005 when it was purchased from an American estate at a small regional auction house. Its rediscovery was followed by six years of painstaking research and inquiry to document its authenticity with the world’s leading authorities on the works and career of da Vinci.