Salvator Mundi (Latin for ”Savior of the World”) is a painting attributed in whole or in part to the Italian High Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, dated to c. 1499–1510.[n 1] Long thought to be a copy of a lost original veiled with overpainting, it was rediscovered, restored, and included in a major exhibition of Leonardo’s work at the National Gallery, London, in 2011–2012. Christie’s claimed just after selling the work that most leading scholars consider it to be an original work by Leonardo, but this attribution has been disputed by other specialists, some of whom posit that he only contributed certain elements.
The painting depicts Christ in an anachronistic blue Renaissance dress, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, while holding a transparent, non-refracting crystal orb in his left, signaling his role as Salvator Mundi and representing the ‘celestial sphere‘ of the heavens. Approximately thirty copies and variations of the work by pupils and followers of Leonardo have been identified. Two preparatory chalk and ink drawings of the drapery by Leonardo are held in the British Royal Collection.
The painting was sold at auction for US$450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s in New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah, setting a new record for the most expensive painting ever sold at public auction. Prince Badr allegedly made the purchase on behalf of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, but it has since been posited that he may have been a stand-in bidder for his close ally, the Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. This follows reports in late 2017 that the painting would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the unexplained cancellation of its scheduled unveiling in September 2018. The current location of the painting has been reported as unknown, but a report in June 2019 stated that it was being stored on bin Salman’s yacht, pending the completion of a cultural center in Al-‘Ula, and a report of October 2019 indicated that it may be in storage in Switzerland.