Science

500-year-old da Vinci up for auction in NY

500-year-old da Vinci up for auction in NY

Leonardo Da Vinci's long-lost portrait of Jesus Christ has been sold at a whopping $450 million at Christie's in NY on Wednesday, shattering the world record for the most expensive painting sold at an auction. "This is the most important old master painting to have been sold at auction in my lifetime".

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been 300 million United States dollars (£227 million), for Willem de Kooning's painting Interchange, sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C Griffin. Businessman Kenneth C. Griffin bought it in a private sale in 2015. The painting has since been restored and was on display in London last month before coming to NY in time for the auction. It far surpassed the sale of Picasso's Women Of Algiers, which fetched US$179.4 million (S$243.5 million) at Christie's in May 2015. Bidding for the piece opened at $75 million. There was 19-minutes of bidding action between five bidders-one in the room and four on the phone.

People inside Christie's cheered as the hammer came down to mark the end of bidding. It was next recorded in a 1763 sale by Charles Herbert Sheffield, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Buckingham, who put it into auction following the sale of what is now Buckingham Palace to the king. He told the Reuters news agency, "It was a moment when all the stars were aligned, and I think Leonardo would be very pleased". They just wanted to see a masterpiece that dates from about 1500 and was rediscovered in 2005. It shows Jesus dressed in Renaissance-style clothing. It then disappeared until 1900, when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work attributed to Leonardo's follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection.

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. It was badly damaged and partly painted over. The oil painting is thought to be around 500 years old.

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Media identified him as Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid $127.5 million in 2013 in a private sale. In 2011, it was accepted as a fully autograph work by Leonardo da Vinci and made its dramatic return to the public eye as part of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan at The National Gallery, London.

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Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Reuters and Associated Press news reports.

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