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Image via Christie’s

Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, or “Savior of the World,” is a 25 7/8 x 18 inch oil on panel painting, featuring Jesus Christ gesturing a blessing with his right hand and holding a crystal orb—the world—in his left; it was painted around 1500, approximately the same time Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa. In 1958, mistaken as a copy, it sold at a Christie’s auction for $60; it was discovered to be an original in 2011 — and now, it’s expected to bring in $100 million during an auction at Christie’s today.

[Update: the painting actually sold for $450.3 million (including fees), the highest price for any work of art ever sold at auction, reports the New York Times. The buyer is still undisclosed.]

Image via Christie’s

The painting was first recorded in the early 1600s, in the royal collection of King Charles I, and next in a 1763 sale by the son of the Duke of Buckingham; it disappeared until 1900 and was sold by Sotheby’s in 1958. The most recent unveiling of the painting was in 2011, at the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan at the National Gallery, London.

For the last month, pre-auction public viewings have been going on, and the painting has generated huge media interest in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and now New York, due to a concerted marketing strategy. According to the auction house’s estimate, about 27,000 people have seen the painting first hand in these public pre-auction viewings, which is its highest number of viewers for any one work of art.

Image via Christie’s

The rest of the paintings being sold at the auction are of a more contemporary period, and include works by Basquiat and Mark Rothko. This is partly because old master paintings, of which Salvator Mundi is the “Holy Grail,” according to the Senior Specialist of Old Master Paintings at Christie’s, rarely bring in the kind of money that auctions of contemporary sales do—this year, premodern art made up the lowest percentage of art sales ever recorded.

It’s also partly because, “Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries,” said Loic Gouzer, Chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, in a press release.

Next, check out 14 Art Installations and Exhibits in NYC Not to Miss in November and NYC’s MET Museum Digitally Recreates Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

 Christie’s, Leonardo Da Vinci

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