Salvator Mundi, meaning Savior of the World, is the title of the work, which has been dated as being from around the year 1500. It is one of fifteen surviving da Vinci oil paintings and portrays Jesus Christ from the torso up.
Christ is facing forward, with his right hand raised in a gesture of blessing while his left hand grasps a crystal ball. He is also donning light blue and gold robes.
While the painting was just verified as an authentic da Vinci, it was first recorded in an art collection belonging to King Charles I of England in 1649.
The work of art changed hands many times and subsequently was returned to the Crown during Charles II’s reign. The painting then was transferred to the collection of the Duke of Buckingham.
The son of the Duke of Buckingham later sold it at auction in 1763. Information about the painting was lost after that point until 1900.
During that year, Sir Frederick Cook acquired the painting. However, it had been damaged beyond recognition. It was sold again at auction in 1958. Finally, in 2005, the painting was brought to Robert Simon, a New York art historian and private dealer, in order to be studied.
Scholars reached unanimous agreement as to the authenticity of the painting. However, many are split on the issue of when the painting was produced; some say the late 1490s while others are arguing for that it was created after 1500.
There was never any question, however, that the Salvator Mundi had ever existed, most scholars simply assumed it had been destroyed.
The Salvator Mundi will be displayed in the National Gallery in London from November 9, 2011, until February 5, 2012, as part of an exhibit entitled “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan.”
Image credit: PRNewsFoto/Robert Simon, Tim Nighswander