Rare Leonardo da Vinci painting fetches record $450M at Christie's auction in New York

PHOTO: A staff member poses with a painting by Leonardo da Vinci entitled Salvator Mundi in London on OCt. 24, 2017, before it is auctioned in New York. The painting is the last privately owned Da Vinci and is expected to fetch around $100,000,000. PlayCarl Court/Getty Images
WATCH Leonardo da Vinci painting fetches record $450M at auction

A rare painting by Leonardo da Vinci auctioned in New York on Wednesday night fetched over $450 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold.

Fewer than 20 paintings by the Italian artist are believed to still exist.

The 500-year-old oil on panel, titled "Salvator Mundi" ("Savior of the World"), depicts Jesus Christ dressed in flowing robes and holding a crystal orb in his left hand. It's the only painting by Leonardo in a private collection, according to Christie's auction house.

PHOTO: Visitors wait outside Christies to view Leonardo da Vincis Salvator Mundi, Nov. 14, 2017, in New York. The painting is expected to sell at auction for $100 million on Wednesday.Julie Jacobson.AP
Visitors wait outside Christie's to view Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", Nov. 14, 2017, in New York. The painting is expected to sell at auction for $100 million on Wednesday.

"'Salvator Mundi' was painted in the same time frame as the 'Mona Lisa,' and they bear a patent compositional likeness," said Loic Gouzer, the chairman of Christie's postwar and contemporary art department in New York City.

"Leonardo was an unparalleled creative force and a master of the enigmatic. Standing in front of his paintings, it becomes impossible for one's mind to fully unravel or comprehend the mystery radiating from them — both the 'Mona Lisa' and 'Salvator Mundi' are perfect examples of this. No one will ever be able to fully grasp the wonder of Leonardo's paintings, just as no one will ever be able to fully know the origins of the universe," Gouzer added.

PHOTO: Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting.Christies
Leonardo da Vinci’s "Salvator Mundi" painting.

Scholars had long believed "Salvator Mundi" was destroyed, until it re-emerged in 2005.

"'Salvator Mundi' is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time," Gouzer said. "Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries."

PHOTO: People take pictures of the painting Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci (circa 1500) during a public preview before an auctioning of the painting tonight at Christies auction house in New York, Nov. 15, 2017. Justin Lane/EPA
People take pictures of the painting 'Salvator Mundi' by Leonardo da Vinci (circa 1500) during a public preview before an auctioning of the painting tonight at Christie's auction house in New York, Nov. 15, 2017.

Christie's had billed the painting as "the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century" and "the last da Vinci," and exhibited it in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before Wednesday's auction.

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