Leonardo - Salvator Mundi

The "Salvator Mundi" attributed to Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo - Salvator Mundi - comparison

Note the similarities between the face of the "Salvator" (center) and the famous one of Leonardo da Vinci's "Gioconda" (left), and also with the face of the Virgin in Cesare da Sesto's "Holy Family" (right)

The 'Salvator Mundi': a long lost Leonardo da Vinci?

Leonardo da Vinci's long lost 'Salvator Mundi' has been supposedly identified in an American private collection, and it will be exhibited at the National Gallery of London

July 18th 2011. Texts: G. Fernández, theartwolf.com

It has been two weeks since I published my call for skepticism regarding the allegedly discovery of a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci. I am surprised how many people have contacted me via e-mail, either asking for more info about the painting or giving me more details about it.

I should clarify that I have never said that the painting is not a genuine Leonardo. With my "call for skepticism" I just wanted to state that we should never accept an old master painting (specially a Leonardo da Vinci) as genuine before it has been publicly exhibited. And we will not have to wait for long, as the "Salvator Mundi" will be take part in the exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan”, to be held at the National Gallery of London, from November 9th 2011 until February 5th 2012

In these last weeks, more information and images of the painting have appeared. Robert Simon Fine Art has published a press release about the discovery. It explains that "the reasons these scholars [the press note includes a long list of scholars who have attributed the painting to Leonardo] are convinced the painting is by Leonardo are several. Among the most significant are the painting’s adherence in style to Leonardo’s known paintings; the extraordinary quality of its execution; the relationship of the painting to the two autograph drawings at Windsor; its correspondence to the composition of the “Salvator Mundi” documented in Wenceslaus Hollar’s 1650 etching; and its manifest superiority to the more than 20 painted known versions of the composition."

Well, judging by the images, the work is certainly quite impressive. Very "leonardesque", so to say. Also, the "sfumato" in the face is really stunning. However, it should also be noted that the works of some of the most gifted followers of Leonardo da Vinci, such as Giampietrino or Cesare da Sesto, are sometimes as "leonardesque" as those by the master himself, at least at first sight. We need objective data to determine its authorship. The press release notes that "further crucial evidence for Leonardo’s authorship was provided by the discovery of pentimenti - preliminary compositional ideas, subsequently changed by the artist in the finished painting, but not reflected in the etching or other copies", adding that "technical examinations and analyses have demonstrated the consistency of the pigments, media, and technique discovered in the Salvator Mundi with those known to have been used by Leonardo".

Enough to add this work to the short list (15 works) of paintings by Leonardo? ARTnews and New York Post seems to accept the attribution, while a quite enigmatic article at "L'Osservatore Romano" denies it. For my part, I will wait till the London show.

Only time (and the exhibition at the NGA) will tell.

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Leonardo da Vinci: life and works

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