The Internets were seriously abuzz this month with news that an undisclosed bidder paid an astounding $450 million for a heretofore unknown oil painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci.
And what did this seriously rich bidder person get for a mere $450 million? An original oil painting by the 14th century Renaissance mathematician/artist Leonardo da Vinci. Titled ‘Salvator Mundi’ (Savior of the World), it’s been dubbed the Holy Grail of Old Master paintings.
It’s a painting of Jesus Christ and displays—according to the experts—all those identifiable da-Vinci-isms present in the Mona Lisa. Details like the sfumato, a certain perspective, those hands, a mysterious veiled gaze, and clothing details. Which makes sense because it is purported to have been painting about the same time as the Mona Lisa, and is around the same size.
All this news had me reading online articles like crazy trying to understand the historical context of such a price tag. In the process I learned there are not that many da Vinci paintings in existence—only around 20—because he just didn’t paint that many, because he was a chronic procrastinator and was always messing around with techniques which destroyed a lot of paintings in the process. Hmm, sounds like me!
How Many da Vinci Paintings Have I Seen?
So of the 20 or so paintings that exist, I’ve seen 20%. Yes 20 percent, meaning four of them. Not bad for this small town artsy girl living in a Pacific Northwest backwater blue-collar town where people value sports and hunting way more than they value art in any way, shape or form.
Here they are!
Photos were taken by yours truly and include the frames; however, they aren’t that great; photography-wise, given you can’t get close enough to a da Vinci, especially the Mona Lisa, or the guards will Jump on top of you and confiscate your camera.
Leonardo da Vinci Paintings I Have Seen….
de La Joconde (Monna Lisa)
La musee du Louvre, Paris, France
We were lucky to get close enough to take this photo, being the tall gauche Americans that we are. The room was elbow to elbow with short Asian-looking people who had the nerve to express irritation at us for being tall and in the way of them seeing their Italian painting in their French museum! Frankly, I wasn’t that impressed. There were many other more magnificent paintings to be seen. But hey, we came, we saw, we survived!
Photo: Mona Lisa, taken by Marie Wise, 2012, Louvre Museum, Paris. See also: All photos from this trip
St. John the Baptist (or Bacchus)
La musee du Louvre, Paris, France
This painting was certainly easier to view, not drawing the crowds like Mona Lisa, although we almost missed it while traversing a vast, cavernous hallway of the Denon Wing, hung with thousands of what appeared to be randomly selected paintings. It’s not apparent there’s any logic to what hangs where in the Louvre, at least that I could tell. We were lucky it caught our attention, again because of it’s obviously da-Vinci-istic characteristics and grandiose chiaroscuro, and that hand. It’s also possible I’ve misidentified this painting. So if you’re an expert, please call me out.
Photo: St. John the Baptist, taken by Marie Wise, 2012, Louvre Museum, Paris. See also: All photos from this trip
Ginevra de’ Benci
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
We were unaware there were any da Vinci paintings in the USA, thus I almost fell over when I came across this painting in a room unoccupied by any other visitors, with no guard present. I could plant my eyeballs within six inches of it, and did so for quite a period of time while convincing myself I was actually seeing a da Vinci painting, yes a real Leonardo da Vinci painting—the only one that exists in the USA—and no one else was jockeying for selfie space in front of me. It also explains how I took a much better picture! Ginevra, I love you!
Photo: Ginevra de’ Benci, taken by Marie Wise, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2014. See also: back side of this painting. All photos from this trip
Madonna of the Rocks
National Gallery, London
We knew there was a da Vinci in there because it was listed in a brochure, hanging on a banner at the entrance to the museum, and prominently featured on the museum’s website. We endured an exhausting trek through every room in that museum trying to find it—to no avail—and finally had to break down and ask a docent, who seemed seriously taken aback we couldn’t find it, given it wasn’t listed on any paper maps we were given on entrance, and there didn’t appear to be any markings on any rooms anywhere in the museum! But there it was, in a room all its own, with limited entrance and the velvet ropes and all, because you can’t have too many people looking at a da Vinci at the same time. The thing was magnificent. We emerged triumphant.
Photo: Madonna of the Rocks, taken by Marie Wise, National Gallery, London, 2017. See also: All photos from this trip.
What’s Next for This Artist?
Hopefully a trip to Rome to see the Vatican Museums, and Florence to see the Uffizi Museum.