By Mims Cushing
So. Christmas is done for another year. I truly hope you opened a present that you wanted. I did not. I had my eyes on that Salvator Mundi (“Savior of the World”) by Da Vinci. I don’t have a single Da Vinci on my walls. I figured it would make a nice conversation piece if I ever had a neighborhood coffee klatch. I’d pour coffee and pass shortbread cookies.
“Have you seen my DaVinci? It’s in the family room near the TV. Come take a look,” I’d chat, airily pointing in the direction of where my favorite handyman had centered it over the fireplace.
Heck, it would be perfectly safe in my home. I mean, I do live in a gated community. The painting would have made a nice companion piece for my artwork from a fellow in Westport, Conn., who paints scenes of Nantucket and Cape Cod. It’s decently framed.
The history of this painting is so complicated it makes the eyes blur. Ponte Vedra NewsLine would have to add an extra page to the newspaper if I’d written about it. The short version of the money trail is that DaVinci sold for $450.3 million on Nov. 15, 2017 at a Christie’s auction. I’ve read that $50 million of that amount went toward “fees.” Is that like shipping and handling?
The bidding war lasted 19 minutes. It’s a tiny fellow, this painting, only 15” x 17” and is 500 years young. It was owned by King Charles I and went missing for many years. At one point in the ‘50s a man picked it up for less than $200. (Did I get that right? Yes, I did.) He bought it for that paltry sum at an estate sale — well, as least it wasn’t at a yard sale.
At another estate sale, jumping ahead to 2005, it sold for less than $10,000. Then in 2011 a Swiss art dealer bought it for $80 million. Now we’re talking serious money. That is its provenance, more mundanely known as “history.” In 2013 it was sold for $75 million to a Swiss dealer and later to a Russian collector for $127.5 million.
Prior to the sale this past year at Christie’s, it took six men four years to prove to the art world that it was legit. They used x-rays and infrared and ultraviolet technology. Perhaps they gave it a CT scan and MRI for good measure.
Scholars found that the painter used lapis lazuli, a rare blue pigment as expensive as gold back when Da Vinci was out and about. Blue is my favorite color, the predominant one in my house. This painting is meant to be with me.
One art historian came up with this snarky comment “The composition is not a Da Vinci. It’s good studio work… but very damaged.” What a spoilsport. What a killjoy!
Oh well. I was looking forward to popping it gently off the wall one Sunday and nestling it in a cozy quilt in the back of my SUV. I’d lovingly drive it over to my church to let the folks have a look-see.
The good news is my birthday is right around the corner so there’s still hope. Happy New Year everyone.