Nova Scotia Journal

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi art price down in Prado museum’s exhibition catalog

Leonardo's Salvator Mundi art

The Prado’s editors have downgraded the Salvator Mundi, which sold for $450 million at Christie’s as a completely authenticated Leonardo. The Saudi culture minister, Prince Badr bin Abdullah, bought it in November 2017 for the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The downgrading appears in the Prado exhibition Leonardo and the Mona Lisa Copy catalog, which runs until January 23, 2022, in Madrid. Although some experts have questioned the Gulf Salvator Mundi’s status, the Prado’s choice is the most critical response from a significant museum since Christie’s purchase.

Prado’s decision is recorded in the show catalog’s index, which includes two lists: one for “by Leonardo” paintings and another for “attributed works, workshop, or authorized and supervised by Leonardo.”

The Gulf artwork is categorized as part of the second category, and it is known as the Cook version (it was bought in 1900 by London-based Francis Cook). Although the show focuses on Prado’s replica of the Mona Lisa, it also includes versions of other Leonardo works.

Salvator Mundi art

“Some specialists believe that there was a now lost prototype, while others believe that the much-debated Cook version is the original,” writes Prado curator Ana Gonzáles Mozo in her catalog essay.

She does claim, however, that “there is no painted prototype” by Leonardo. According to Mozo, another copy of Salvator Mundi, the so-called Ganay version (1505-15), is the most similar to Leonardo’s lost original. The marquis de Ganay acquired it in 1939, and it was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999, and it is currently in the hands of an anonymous private collection.

Mozo believes that the same talented workshop artist who painted the Ganay Salvator Mundi also painted the Prado’s early Mona Lisa copy. The Cook edition is not shown in the catalog, even though it has a full-page image of the Ganay Salvator Mundi.

Vincent Delieuvin, organizer of the extensive 2019 Leonardo retrospective at the Musée du Louvre, contributes the first essay to the Prado catalog. He analyzes many views on the Gulf Salvator Mundi without offering much of his own, though he does mention “details of surprisingly poor quality.” Mozo is likely to have had long discussions with Delieuvin, a significant partner on the current Prado display.


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