A rediscovered masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci is heading for auction next month at Christie’s.
Painted circa 1500, the Salvator Mundi depicts Christ as Savior of the World, and was believed to have been destroyed centuries ago.
The painting is one of less than 20 works by Da Vinci known to exist, and is the only one which remains in private hands.
It will cross the auction block in New York on November 15, where it is expected to sell for more than $100 million
"The Salvator Mundi is the Holy Grail of old master paintings," said Christie’s Senior Specialist Alan Wintermute. "Long-known to have existed, and long-sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly unobtainable dream until now.
"To see a fully finished, late masterpiece by Leonardo, made at the peak of his genius, appear for sale in 2017 is as close as I’ve come to an Art World Miracle. It has been more than a century since the last such painting turned up and this opportunity will not come again in our lifetime.
"I can hardly convey how exciting it is for those of us directly involved in its sale. The word ‘masterpiece’ barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo’s painting."
According to historic records, the work once belonged to King Charles I, and hung in the private chambers of his wife Henrietta Maria at Greenwich Palace.
It was later owned by Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, who sold it in 1763 after selling Buckingham Palace to King George III.
The painting then disappeared for almost 140 years, before it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson in 1900. But by this time the face of the portrait had been overpainted, and it was recorded as a work by Da Vinci’s follower Bernardino Luini.
With its true origins forgotten, the painting was next sold at Sotheby’s in 1958 for just £45, before it once again disappeared from view.
At some point over the next 50 years the Salvator Mundi crossed the Atlantic, and in 2005 it was sold at a local estate sale in the U.S.
However, the new buyers were a consortium of art dealers and experts, and they suspected they were onto something remarkable.
For the next six years they painstakingly researched and restored the work, and in 2011 the world’s leading authorities on Da Vinci’s work authenticated it as genuine.
This first discovery of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci since 1909 made headlines around the world, and it was unveiled at The National Gallery in London, as part of the blockbuster exhibition ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’.
"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time," said Loic Gouzer, Chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art in New York.
"The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honor that comes around once in a lifetime. Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries.
"We felt that offering this painting within the context of our Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale is a testament to the enduring relevance of this picture."