Is the world's most expensive painting a FAKE? Louvre snubs 'Leonardo da Vinci' painting 15 months after a Saudi prince spent £342million

The Salvator Mundi, an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500

The Salvator Mundi, an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500

The Salvator Mundi was thought to be painted by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, but doubts have been cast over the painting's authenticity.

The painting, which was unveiled at The National Gallery's 2011 Leonardo exhibition, broke auction records at Christie's in New York, 2017 when it was bought for $450million (£342million).

Christie's confirmed the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism was 'acquiring' the painting, but its next unveiling, due to take place at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in September, was cancelled with no explanation.  

The Salvator Mundi, which depicts Christ as 'Saviour of the World', is now alleged by some to be a 'workshop Leonardo', painted by one of the artist's studio assistants.

Art historian Jacques Franck told the Sunday Telegraph that senior politicians and Louvre staff 'know that the Salvator Mundi isn't a Leonardo'.

He has reportedly written to French President Emmanuel Macron to warn him against inaugurating the Louvre's Leonardo exhibition this autumn if the allegedly fake painting is included - which would be 'almost scandalous'. 

The painting was also said to be facing a snub from the Louvre in Paris, who were reported to have scrapped plans to display the work in its Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

But a Louvre spokeswoman told MailOnline: 'The Musée du Louvre has asked for the loan of the Salvator Mundi and wishes to present it in its October exhibition.

'We are waiting for the owner’s answer.

'M. Franck was part of the scholars who have been consulted 7 or 8 years ago for the restoration of the Saint Ann.

'He is not currently working on the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition and has never been curator for the Louvre.

'His opinion is his personal opinion, not the one of the Louvre.'  

The painting's appearance has been said to have changed between the time it was unveiled in 2011 and its auctioning off six years later, raising questions over its restoration.   

Last August reports emerged that Matthew Landrus, a research fellow at Oxford University's Wolfson College, said the artwork was actually painted by da Vinci's assistant Bernardino Luini. 

Reports had suggested that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the painting's buyer. 

Da Vinci scholar Professor Martin Kemp, who helped authenticate the piece a decade ago, had previously told The Times: 'Nobody outside the immediate Arab hierarchy knows where it is.' 

Western diplomats said a Saudi royal acting as a proxy for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the buyer.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington says the Saudi royal purchased the painting on behalf of the museum in Abu Dhabi.  

1.8 Million Free Works of Art from World-Class Museums: A Meta List of Great Art Available Online

Monalisa by Leonardo da Vinci portrait.jpg

Since the first stirrings of the internet, artists and curators have puzzled over what the fluidity of online space would do to the experience of viewing works of art. At a conference on the subject in 2001, Susan Hazan of the Israel Museum wonderedwhether there is “space for enchantment in a technological world?” She referred to Walter Benjamin’s ruminations on the “potentially liberating phenomenon” of technologically reproduced art, yet also noted that “what was forfeited in this process were the ‘aura’ and the authority of the object containing within it the values of cultural heritage and tradition.” Evaluating a number of online galleries of the time, Hazan found that “the speed with which we are able to access remote museums and pull them up side by side on the screen is alarmingly immediate.” Perhaps the “accelerated mobility” of the internet, she worried, “causes objects to become disposable and to decline in significance.”

Fifteen years after her essay, the number of museums that have made their collections available online whole, or in part, has grown exponentially and shows no signs of slowing. We may not need to fear losing museums and libraries—important spaces that Michel Foucault called “heterotopias,” where linear, mundane time is interrupted. These spaces will likely always exist. Yet increasingly we need never visit them in person to view most of their contents. Students and academics can conduct nearly all of their research through the internet, never having to travel to the Bodleian, the Beinecke, or the British Library. And lovers of art must no longer shell out for plane tickets and hotels to see the precious contents of the Getty, the Guggenheim, or the Rijksmuseum. For all that may be lost, online galleries have long been “making works of art widely available, introducing new forms of perception in film and photography and allowing art to move from private to public, from the elite to the masses.”

Even more so than when Hazan wrote those words, the online world offers possibilities for “the emergence of new cultural phenomena, the virtual aura.” Over the years we have featured dozens of databases, archives, and online galleries through which you might virtually experience art the world over, an experience once solely reserved for only the very wealthy. And as artists and curators adapt to a digital environment, they find new ways to make virtual galleries enchanting. The vast collections in the virtual galleries listed below await your visit, with close to 2,000,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, books, and more. See the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum (top), courtesy of the Google Cultural Institute. See Van Gogh's many self-portraits and vivid, swirling landscapes at The Van Gogh Museum. Visit the Asian art collection at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries. Or see Vassily Kandinsky's dazzling abstract compositions at the Guggenheim.

And below the list of galleries, find links to online collections of several hundred art books to read online or download. Continue to watch this space: We'll add to both of these lists as more and more collections come online.

Art Images from Museums & Libraries

Art Books

Related Contents:

Download 448 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

 

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC.