NEW YORK — Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year old painting, Salvator Mundi claimed a place in auction history Wednesday evening, selling for $450,312,500 and setting a new auction record for any work of art ever sold at auction, after 19 minutes of bidding. The winning bid was placed by Christie’s Alex Rotter, Co-Chariman of Post-War and Contemporary Art acting on behalf of an anonymous client.
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, Global President of Christie’s, opened the bidding at $75 million, pulling in at least 45 bids from clients on the phone and in the room. After several minutes of volleyed bids from around the room, the competition settled down to a head-to-head competition between Alex Rotter, Co-Chariman, Post-War and Contemporary Art and Francois de Poortere, Head of Department, Old Masters, New York, each bidding on behalf of clients on the phone. At the $400 million mark, Mr. de Poortere bowed out, awarding the last Leonardo painting left in private hands to a new, unknown owner for a final price of $450.3 million inclusive of fees.
The actual final price for the painting was $400 million and Christie’s adds a 12.5% buyer’s premium for purchases of $4 million or more.
A rapt audience of nearly 1,000 art collectors, dealers, advisors, journalists and onlookers packed into Christie’s main auction room at Rockefeller Center to watch the action on Lot 9, with thousands tuning in via a live-streamed feed. Since the sale of Salvator Mundi was announced on October 10 at Christie’s, over 29,700 people have flocked to Christie’s exhibitions of the ‘Male Mona Lisa’ in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco and New York – the first time the painting had ever been shown to the public in Asia or the Americas.
The sale capped off a huge evening for Christie’s Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale. In total, Christie’s generated revenues of $788,942,250 including buyer’s premiums.
Fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo are known to exist and all save for Salvator Mundi are in museum collections. Dating from around 1500, the haunting oil on panel painting depicts a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World, 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.
The previous auction record for Leonardo da Vinci was set at Christie’s in 2001 when Horse and Rider, a work on paper, sold for $11,481,865. The previous record for the most expensive work of art at auction was set in the same Christie’s saleroom, when Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) achieved $179,364,992.