Is this $450 Million da Vinci Even a Real da Vinci?

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The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million (253 million euros), for Willem de Kooning's painting "Interchange", sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C. Griffin.

The work was accepted as an authentic da Vinci when it was included in a 2011 exhibition of the artist's works at London's National Gallery, and two years later it was sold to the billionaire Russian oligarch painting Dmitry Rybolovlev for US$127.5 million ($AU168m).

"The composition doesn't come from Leonardo", said Jacques Franck, a Paris-based art historian and Leonardo specialist.

The rediscovered masterpiece by the Renaissance master sells for an historic $450,312,500, obliterating the previous world record for the most expensive work of art at auction.

The provenance of "Salvator Mundi" is largely shrouded in mystery, however.

The work subsequently belonged to Charles I of England around 140 years later and disappeared for almost 250 years before ending up in the hands of a British collector, Sir Francis Cook, in 1900.

"Salvator Mundi" was attributed to Leonardo after six years of restoration and research, becoming the first discovery of a painting by the Renaissance master since 1909, according to Christie's. It was recorded at a 1763 sale and then vanished until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson, an art collector. The price tag of the classic piece of artwork makes it the highest valued painting in history.

Salvator Mundi is one of only a score of Leonardo da Vinci’s works still in existence and the only one held privately
Salvator Mundi is one of only a score of Leonardo da Vinci’s works still in existence and the only one held privately

Dated to around 1500, the work sold after 19 minutes of frenzied bidding - an incongruous Old Master in Christie's evening postwar and contemporary sale, which attracts the biggest spenders in the high-octane world of worldwide billionaire art collectors.

Members of the public - indeed, even many cognoscenti - cared little if at all whether the painting might have been executed in part by studio assistants; whether Leonardo had actually made the work himself; or how much of the canvas had been repainted and restored.

"My hands were shaking", Modestini said in a statement released through Christie's in October. Peter's painting was valued at $76 million.

"It's been called 'the male Mona Lisa, '" he said, "but it doesn't look like it at all".

It has been guaranteed by a backer to sell for at least $100 million (85 million euros). "It has been more than a century since the last such painting turned up and this opportunity will not come again in our lifetime".

"It was process that began shortly after the work was discovered - heavily veiled with overpaints, long mistaken for a copy - in a small, regional auction in the United States in 2005".

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