July 11, 2011 in Nation/World

London museum to show lost da Vinci

Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

This undated handout photo shows a painting recently authenticated as the work of Leonardo da Vinci. “Salvator Mundi,” dating to around 1500, will be on display at the National Gallery in the fall as part of a larger exhibition on the Renaissance artist, the London museum said Monday. It depicts a half-length figure of Christ with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding an orb.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — An oil painting recently authenticated as the work of Leonardo da Vinci will be on display at the National Gallery in the fall as part of a larger exhibition on the Renaissance artist, the London museum said Monday.

“Salvator Mundi,” which dates to around 1500, depicts a half-length figure of Christ with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding an orb.

The National Gallery said in a statement Monday that the work was shown to its director, curator and other art scholars after undergoing conservation that was completed in 2010.

“We felt that it would be of great interest to include it in the exhibition as a new discovery,” the museum said, adding that its curator Luke Syson “is cataloging the picture as by Leonardo da Vinci and this is how the picture will be presented in the exhibition.”

The painting will be included in an exhibition titled: “Leonardo da Vinci: Painter of the Court of Milan,” from Nov. 9 to Feb. 5, 2012. “This will obviously be the moment to test this important new attribution by direct comparison with works universally accepted as Leonardo’s,” the museum said.

“Once you walked into the room it had that uncanny presence that Leonardo’s have,” said Martin Kemp, professor emeritus of art history at Oxford. A researcher of paintings, he was among the experts consulted on the painting.

Detailed examination of the work as well as scientific testing convinced him that he was looking at the real thing. For example, some of the brushwork in the best preserved sections made it clear that the master had been holding the brush.

“None of the students painted like that, none of the followers,” Kemp said.

Kemp said he was glad the painting was going on display at the National Gallery. “It’s a new Leonardo painting, it’s sensational,” he said. “I’m glad London is seeing it publicly first.”

The work is currently owned by R.W. Chandler, a consortium represented by Robert Simon, an art historian and private art dealer in Tuxedo Park, N.Y., according to Sara Latham, a spokeswoman for Simon.

“Salvator Mundi,” which means Savior of the World, was believed to have been lost. It was first recorded in the art collection of King Charles I of England in 1649. In 1763, it was auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham. It next appeared in 1900, damaged from excessive paint overlay and its authorship unclear, when it was purchased by a British collector, Sir Frederick Cook, according to a released from Simon. Cook’s descendants sold it at auction in 1958 for 45 pounds. In 2005, it was acquired by an American estate.

Simon said that among the factors that convinced art experts that the painting was by the great master were its execution and style, which were consistent with da Vinci’s other known works, and its superiority to more than 20 painted known copies by his students and followers. He said examination of the pigments and technique also were consistent with those used by da Vinci.

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