Sunday, December 24, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi

Art is a commodity. I know I don't usually describe it that way here. Typically I'll look at a specific work of, say, illustration art and describe as best I can what attributes make it unique. Now if every work, low or high, is so unique, what value is there in suggesting that art is just another commodity? Well, rare and highly sought-after art by an undisputed genius is a valuable commodity indeed. I don't think there's a better way to understand how a painting like Leonardo's Salvator Mundi could sell for $450,000,000, now the world record price for a work of art. It's not that it's "the male Mona Lisa"—it isn't, although calling it that is great marketing. It's not that it's Leonardo's most compelling work; I'd argue that it falls on the opposite end of that spectrum. What it is, simply, is Leonardo's only painting in private hands. If you had the resources and wanted to own a Leonardo painting, this was your only chance.

It you didn't win the auction, you can console yourself that the work is not in the best condition, that the face of Jesus was overaggressively cleaned in the past and now appears somewhat ghostly and distant from the better-preserved hands or the clothing. You can tell yourself that the composition appears very static and overly symmetrical compared with other works by the artist.

But if you did win the auction, you can tell yourself that you own a Leonardo.

Leonardo da Vinci
Salvator Mundi

Leonardo da Vinci
Christie's New York, November 15, 2017

Leonardo da Vinci
Salvator Mundi

Note:  Leonardo has never appeared on this blog before, but his reputation seems to be holding up just fine.

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