Lifestyle & Human Interest

World's Most Expensive Painting Has Gone Missing: $450.3 Million Image of Jesus by Da Vinci


Danny Boyle’s 2013 thriller “Trance” was absolutely packed with whiz-bang content. From explosions and gunfights to love interests and betrayals, it had a little bit of everything in it.

The film also centers all that action around an unanticipated subject: art. Boyle had his characters chase after Francisco Goya’s 1798 painting “Witches in the Air” for most of the movie, which someone (I won’t spoil who) had stolen.

We don’t often associate art with nail-biting excitement. Yet a situation has begun to unfold around a famous painting that could end up being just as tense as “Trance.”

According to The New York Times, it has to do with an infamous Leonardo da Vinci painting known as “Salvator Mundi.” For years, people doubted if this portrait of Christ had actually come from the famed Renaissance master.

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Some even stated that style didn’t make sense for da Vinci. In The New Yorker, art critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote about how the piece mirrored “the archaic, largely Byzantine convention of depicting Christ head on, delivering the usual raised-fingers bless, at a time when Leonardo was doing wonders with figures turning in pictorial deep space.

However, Schjeldahl eventually concluded that the painting was the real deal. “I class my misgivings about ‘Salvator Mundi’ as mere disappointment,” he stated, conceding, “I’m conditioned to expect from him more terrific painterly ingenuities.”

Other experts eventually authenticated it, which led to its purchase for a whopping $450.3 million. That’s where the story gets interesting.

The individual who purchased the painting did so anonymously. Once people eventually sussed out the buyer’s identity, they started to believe he might have picked up “Salvator Mundi” on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.

Then roughly 30 days after the auction, the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates announced that it would display the painting in September 2018. But the unveiling got inexplicably canceled.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi then refused to comment on the change in plans. Staff would later say that they didn’t know the whereabouts of the famous painting.

Neither did the Louvre in Paris, which said it had no idea where “Salvator Mundi” might be. In fact, no one appears to know anything about its location.

“It is tragic,” said New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts professor Dianne Modestini. “To deprive the art lovers and many others who were moved by this picture — a masterpiece of such rarity — is deeply unfair.”

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Oxford art historian Martin Kemp added, “I don’t know where it is, either.” In fact, no one is quite sure that the painting even made it to the Middle East.

Modestini has stated that she knows it made it to Europe and that an insurance company was supposed to inspect it prior to it making its next leg of the journey. However, someone canceled that inspection.

“The trail goes completely cold,” Modestini said. As to why the painting might have vanished, all sorts of explanations swirl about.

Some guess that the painting’s new owner might not think that the painting was the work of da Vinci or that the expensive price tag might prove embarrassing. Whatever the reason, it seems as though the rest of us will have to wait before we get answers.

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A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine.
A graduate of Wheaton College with a degree in literature, Loren also adores language. He has served as assistant editor for Plugged In magazine and copy editor for Wildlife Photographic magazine. Most days find him crafting copy for corporate and small-business clients, but he also occasionally indulges in creative writing. His short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. Loren currently lives in south Florida with his wife and three children.
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