Christie’s Auctions in New York City have drawn incredible bids for everything from rare coins to presidential memorabilia to relics of The Titanic. But what happened last week was remarkable, even by their standards. Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Jesus Christ sold for a record $450 million. The prized painting is listed as the most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction – or anywhere else.
When announcing the artwork, the auctioneer called da Vinci’s work a “masterpiece of Christ the Savior.” He explained that it was once in possession of three Kings of England – King Charles I, King Charles II, and King James II.
The bid started at $240 million and slowly climbed up. Soon after the $400 million bid came in, everyone in the room gasped in disbelief. When it finally sold, they celebrated as they witnessed history.
The painting is officially known as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World). It shows the European version of Christ holding one hand up as a sign of blessing, while the other hand holds a glass sphere resembling the shape of the earth.
CNN said the Salvator Mundi was sold at an auction in London in 1958 for just $59 because it was dismissed as a copy.
According to various reports, it is assumed that it was painted in the 1500s, and pegged “the only work thought to be in private hands.” Da Vinci died in 1519 and there are currently less than 20 of his paintings in existence.
An expert in Old Master and 19th Century art, Dr. Tim Hunter, told the BBC that the painting is “the most important discovery of the 21st century.”
But did you catch the old price? A $450 million painting sold for just $59 a few years back – because they thought it was a fake.
That is a parable on life. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the authentic and the fake. As we learn from da Vinci’s work, authenticity is worth roughly a million times more than something else that looks exactly the same, but is not real.
There’s another lesson from Salvator Mundi. It is not the art that makes the item worth millions. It is the artist that counts. When they thought the artist was someone other than Leonardo da Vinci, the painting sold for the price of a dinner at Red Lobster. Our value is not in who we are, but in the Artist who made us. The fake life isn’t worth much. But the person whose life is a canvass at the disposal of the Great Artist is absolutely priceless.