A page turner – The Last Leonardo

I read this book with interest having followed the auction sale where the painting was sold for USD 450 million in 2017.

The painting was bought in an auction in 2005 for USD 1, 175. In 2013 the sellers sold it for USD 80 million to a Russian oligarch. In 2017 it was put up for auction and sold. The painting was supposedly bought by an Arab buyer and was to be exhibited at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. I made a trip there in 2018. Sadly, it was abruptly pulled out for undisclosed reasons.

Without the painting, one is left with this book. It is an interesting book. Lewis explains the art trade, the runners who scoured small towns in US hoping to hit a jackpot. He also narrates the life of Leonardo who is supposed to have painted this painting.

I doubt this painting was by Leonardo. No records from the artist’s lifetime mentioned he painted a Salvator Mundi. {see p 47}. We don’t have any contract, comments by friends or the patron or any payments made.

What we do have are inventories kept by Charles I that state Leonardo as the artist. This fact is repeated down the line. But as any judge will tell counsel ” mere repetitions will not make the point.”

This book is worth reading. The only gripe I have is that Lewis is quite sparing in his endnotes. Many interesting facts in the book are not endnoted.

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