Da Vinci's painting of Jesus Christ to be sold at auction with $100M estimate

(Courtesy Christie's New York/Handout via Reuters)"Salvatore Mundi," an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, the last privately owned Leonardo da Vinci painting, is on display for the media at Christie's auction in New York, NY, U.S., October 10, 2017.

Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvatore Mundi," an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, will be auctioned off at Christie's next month with a pre-sale estimate of around $100 million.

The painting is one of tfewer than 20 works by the famous Renaissance artist, and it is the last known work that is in the hands of a private owner.

The portrait depicts Christ in royal blue robes against a dark background, facing the viewer while holding a glass orb in his left hand. It was painted around the same time as the Mona Lisa and has been dubbed by many as "the male Mona Lisa" due to its similarities to the iconic painting.

"This is truly the Holy Grail of art rediscoveries," said Alan Wintermute, Christie's senior specialist for Old Master paintings, explaining that the portrait had long been thought to have been lost or destroyed.

The work was first recorded in the private collection of King Charles I and was reportedly auctioned in 1763 before it vanished until 1900. By that time, the face and hair had been painted over, which Wintermute said was "quite common" practice. Some buyers had been left to believe that the painting was a work by da Vinci's follower Bernardino Luini because of the overpainting.

An American collector bought it at a Sotheby's auction in 1958 for $60 and it was sold again in 2005 as an overpainted copy of the masterwork, according to Wintermute.

Following its rediscovery in 2005, the portrait went through a six-year process before it was authenticated as Da Vinci's last work and unveiled at the National Gallery in London in 2011.

"The word 'masterpiece' barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo's painting," Wintermute said, as reported by The New York Post.

Christie's announced on Tuesday that the painting will be up for auction in New York at its Nov. 15 sale of post-war and contemporary art following public exhibitions in Hong Kong, London and San Francisco.

"We felt that offering this painting within that context is a testament to the enduring relevance of this picture," said Loic Gouzer, chairman of Christie's post-war and contemporary art, according to Reuters.

Christie's had not identified the seller, a European private collector who acquired the work after a lengthy restoration.

Reflecting on the $100 million estimate, Wintermute said, "There has never been anything like it sold, and so the market will decide."

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