Surely you recall in 2012 when Art in America reported that the Dallas Museum of Art was keeping a wood panel painting recently attributed to Leonard da Vinci in its basement, showing it to select North Texas patrons in the hope it could pony up the $200 million asking price. DMA director Maxwell Anderson was angling to get the museum its first, ‘world-class’ Old Master trophy painting. “Salvator Mundi” (Savior of the World), as it’s called, was made around 1500 and had been badly treated over the years — until it came into the hands of a ‘consortium of New York art traders’ including Robert Simon, who had the painting cleaned and researched and then they tried to sell it.
Needless to say, the DMA wasn’t able to buy “Salvator Mundi,” as it conceded in December 2012. But an anonymous someone has, reports the New York Times. Last March, in a private sale by Sotheby’s (so details were not revealed), the da Vinci was bought for between $75 and $80 million, less than half what the DMA was supposedly trying to raise.
Although the painting had been displayed in the “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” exhibition at London’s National Gallery and increasingly experts have come to believe it is, in fact, a da Vinci, the fact that its owners had to shop it around like this because leading museums weren’t biting and the fact that it went for far lower than recent auction prices for paintings by Cezanne, van Gogh, Picasso and Rubens indicate that it wasn’t as in-demand as one might think a da Vinci on the open market would be:
“It’s a trophy painting by a highly important artist,” [London trade insider Anthony] Crichton-Stuart said. “You have to balance its compromised condition against the fact that it is by one of the most magical and significant names in the entire canon of Western art, and in that sense, it feels like a fair price.”