It’s the passion of the painting.
Leonardo da Vinci’s haunting last work, depicting Jesus Christ, is coming to New York this month and is expected to fetch an estimated $100 million at a November Christie’s auction, a spokesperson said.
“Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” Loic Gouzer, chairman of post-war and contemporary art for Christie’s New York, said in a statement released by the auction house.
The historic painting is one of fewer than 20 that can be attributed to the Italian master and the only one that’s privately owned.
Dating from around 1500 — about the same time the Mona Lisa was painted — “Salvator Mundi” or “Savior of the World,” sets Christ in royal blue robes against a dark background, facing the viewer and holding a glass orb in his left hand.
Many have dubbed the evocative work “the male Mona Lisa” because of its similarities to the iconic painting, according to Francois de Poortere, head of Old Master paintings at Christie’s.
The Renaissance work, which hung in the collection of King Charles I in the 1600s, was long believed to have been destroyed until its rediscovery in 2005.
Experts believe that by 1900, it had been painted over, leading buyers to think it was a work by da Vinci’s follower Bernardino Luini. It was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in 1958 for a measly $60.
Its rediscovery 12 years ago was followed by a six-year endeavor to authenticate it as the last work of the Renaissance master and it was unveiled at the National Gallery in London in 2011.
The Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of Old Masters painting,” said Alan Wintermute, senior specialist of Old Master paintings at Christie’s. “The word ‘masterpiece’ barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo’s painting.”
The work sets off on a worldwide tour starting in Hong Kong on Oct. 13 and will make stops in San Francisco, London and New York before being auctioned Nov. 15.