LONDON (Reuters) - A painting sold for as little as 45 pounds ($70) in the 1950s but since hailed as a lost masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci and now worth millions is to go on show in November.
The painting, “Salvator Mundi” (Saviour of the World), dating from around 1500, was recorded in 1649 as being part of King Charles I of England’s art collection but had long been considered lost.
When it was sold in 1958, it was believed to be a piece by Da Vinci’s student Giovanni Boltraffio.
It was disfigured by overpainting and hallmarks of the Da Vinci-style such as the coiled ringlets of Christ’s hair and the quality of painting of a glass orb in his left hand were hidden by layers of dirt and varnish.
A consortium acquired the painting from an American estate in 2005 and took it to New York art historian Robert Simon.
Although Simon thought it unlikely the painting was a Da Vinci, its potential interest led to an extensive restoration project and now experts agree the painting is indeed genuine, with a value of around 120 million pounds ($192 million).
Scholars cite the similarity to the style of other Da Vinci paintings, including the Virgin of the Rocks from around the same date, the quality of execution and the likeness to a Salvator Mundi found in a 1650 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar as the main reasons why they believe the painting is genuine.
Images of Christ giving his blessing to the world were common during the Renaissance, but experts say it is the reflection of the light in the glass globe that points to Da Vinci, who was also a scientist and interested in how to capture light effectively.
The last Da Vinci discovery was in 1909, when the Benois Madonna was found. Several other known works by Da Vinci, including the Mona Vanna, a nude Mona Lisa, remain lost.
The Salvator Mundi will be displayed at the “Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan” exhibition at the National Gallery in London from November 9. ($1 = 0.624 British Pounds)
Editing by Paul Casciato