Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Jesus sells for record $450 at auction

(Reuters/Peter Nicholls/File photo)FILE PHOTO: Members of Christie's staff pose for pictures next to Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" painting which will be auctioned by Christie's in New York in November, in London, Britain October 24, 2017.

Leonardo Da Vinci's long-lost portrait of Jesus Christ has been sold at a whopping $450 million at Christie's in New York on Wednesday, shattering the world record for the most expensive painting sold at an auction.

The saleroom at Christie's erupted in cheers and applause after the painting, titled "Salvator Mundi" (Savior of the World), was sold to an undisclosed buyer who bid $400 million, making the total price $450.3 million after additional fees.

"Thank you all for your bidding. Four hundred million selling here at Christie's. The piece is sold," said auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen, according to The Guardian.

As many as six bidders were vying for the artwork at the height of the auction, with as much as $20 million and $30 jumps in price, which Christie's CEO, Guillaume Cerutti, said was unusual.

New York Times reported that gasps were heard at the saleroom as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos.

A telephone bidder then jumped in at one point, pushing the price from $332 million to $350 million, and later bumped the price from $370 million to $400 million.

The artwork, which is said to be was painted in the same time frame as the "Mona Lisa," depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand. Scholars had once thought that the portrait was destroyed until it was discovered in 2005.

Prior to the auction, the painting was in the possession of Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, who reportedly bought the artwork from Paris-based dealer, Yves Bouvier, for $127 million.

Before Rybolovlev, the artwork had been in the possession of several art dealers, including Alexander Parish, who had bought it for $10,000 in an estate sale in the U.S. in 2005.

Salvator Mundi was first unveiled at the National Gallery in London to the public in 2011 after Parish had it restored and authenticated.

As many as 27,000 people came to see the artwork at pre-auction viewings in Hong Kong, London, San Franciso and New York.

Alan Wintermute, a senior specialist in old master paintings at Christie's in London, described the Salvator Mundi as the "holy grail" of masters, and said that he had never doubted that the artwork would break records.

"Every major scholar of Leonardo's work accepts the picture and has for the past decade," he said in response to questions about the authenticity and condition of the painting.

"It's not in flawless condition, it's 500 years old and absolutely has the presence and condition of a true Leonardo," he added.

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