It's not every day you get to see a Da Vinci in person. And it's certainly not every day that while out on your lunch break you unexpectedly get an opportunity to walk in off the street, wait in no line, pay no entrance fee and get to see a Da Vinci in person. But as unusual as that fact pattern might be, it played itself out one day earlier this year as I walked past Christie's auction house on an otherwise uneventful Wednesday afternoon.
Just behind a row of police style metal barriers, softened with red fittings inscribed with the auction house's name, was a large billboard that read "The Last Da Vinci." It was accompanied by a large photo replica of the piece, titled, "Salvatore Mundi," or, Savior of the World, which depicts a Jesus Christ like figure holding up two fingers of his right hand and holding a glass orb in his left.
As the story goes, the painting was thought to have been destroyed long ago, its existence known largely through an etching from the year 1650 by a celebrated printmaker which had been inscribed with the phrase, "Leonardo da Vinci painted it." The piece, which is said to have once been part of King Charles I's collection, was rediscovered in America in 2005, and eventually unveiled to the public in 2011. It is one of less than twenty Da Vinci paintings in existence, and the only one privately owned, the painting marked the first rediscovery of a Da Vinci since 1909.
With the art world abuzz, and even a fair amount of skeptics questioning the painting's authenticity, Christie's played up the event as being potentially historic and making it the main attraction at their Post-War and Contemporary Art Auction slated to take place on November 15th. So after ducking underneath the , I walked through the entrance to get a glimpse of the painting in person.
I walked into a room that was mostly empty, and was greeted by Andy Warhol's monumental piece "Sixty Last Suppers," which was also slated for auction in the coming weeks. Measuring XX by XX, the black and white work depicts sixty silkscreens of Da Vinci's "Last Supper." There aren't many artists that can completely overshadow Andy Warhol, but Da Vinci appears to be one of them. Not a single person was looking at the Warhol, with the ten or so people in the room all gathered around the main attraction.