The new museum that was intended to be a uniquely built showcase for Leonardo da Vinci paintings has launched a fresh investigation into the famous “Salvator Mundi” painting, cast even more doubt on its provenance and caused one of its patrons to accuse the museum of working with an unsavory group.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston launched a review of the painting, the work in which an armless man looks into a gold-rimmed mirror. It faced a he-said-she-said battle over its status as one of only nine paintings that was owned by Leonardo — the other seven are owned by Italy.
The painting was first speculated about in the 18th century but was now thought to have been hidden away in Paris by John Paul I in the 1840s, where it hung in the Rothschild Foundation. Since no trace of the portrait can be found in the collection of the original owner, 16th-century restorer Giovanni Bellini, experts have assumed it was created by Leonardo after Bellini’s death in 1505. Leonardo da Vinci Foundation president Simone Brambilla told the Associated Press that it was impossible for the foundation to authenticate the painting since it was beyond their scope of reach.
The $450 million “Salvator Mundi” auction record was broken in December when the French auction house Christie’s sold the painting to Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for the sum of $450 million. Rybolovlev was forced to pay off $40 million of the $450 million sum and put it towards the acquisition of gold and art works. He said that the painting of Christ was for sale to resolve his $1.2 billion legal battle with Renzo Rosso, who owns Diesel jeans and father-owned the Portofino oceanfront hotel. Rybolovlev claims that Rosso defrauded him out of his art holdings. Rosso declined to comment on the new statement from the Houston museum, but said to The New York Times that he would have never agreed to be hounded by the Russia-based Rybolovlev, accusing him of a vendetta against the Russian-owned luxury yacht company, Arktos, which Rosso launched last year and which Rybolovlev had once been a board member of. Rosso has accused Rybolovlev of conspiring to raise the price of the painting from the previous estimate of $300 million. The Houston museum did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
In the beginning of the 21st century, the disputed painting began making its way back to the spotlight when it came up for auction again in 2017 in New York, when it was consigned by a group of investors. That sale was canceled at the last minute after the group requested an auction in Germany due to disagreements with Rosso’s lawyer, who could not deliver the painting to the auction. He eventually returned the painting on Christmas Day and after negotiations, it was purchased by the Russian billionaire, the Houston museum announced this month.
The museum plans to show the painting for one month, but Rybolovlev is said to be questioning whether the meeting could spark a bidding war similar to that at Christie’s in December when he agreed to sell the painting at auction, The New York Times reported.
Read the full story at AP.
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