How much will prized da Vinci painting draw at auction?

How much will prized da Vinci painting draw at auction?
PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK - What is the only da Vinci painting on the open market worth?

A Russian billionaire believes he was swindled when he bought it for US$127.5 million (S$173 million). This week, he will find out if he was right.

Salvator Mundi, a painting of Jesus Christ by the Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci circa 1500, is the star lot in New York's November art auctions that will see Christie's and Sotheby's chase combined art sales of more than US$1 billion. It goes under the hammer at Christie's on Wednesday.

The auction house, which identifies the seller only as a European collector, has valued the painting at US$100 million.

The price will be closely watched - not just as one of fewer than 20 paintings by da Vinci's hand accepted to exist, but by its owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of football club Monaco who is suing Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier in that city-state.

Mr Rybolovlev, who spent US$2.1 billion on 37 masterpieces purchased through Mr Bouvier over a decade, accuses the latter of conning him by overcharging him on a string of deals, and pocketing the difference.

Mr Bouvier bought the da Vinci work at Sotheby's for US$80 million in 2013. He resold it within days to the Russian tycoon, for US$127.5 million, netting a US$47.5 million profit.

The painting's rarity is difficult to overstate. For years, it was presumed to have been destroyed.

Long believed to have been a copy, before eventually being certified as authentic, it fetched a mere US$60 (in today's money) in 1958 before disappearing again for decades. It emerged only in 2005 when it was purchased from a US estate.

All other known paintings by da Vinci are held in museum or institutional collections.

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