Salvator Mundi is a painting by the workshop of Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, dated to c. 1500. The painting shows Jesus in Renaissance dress, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, while holding a transparent, non-refracting crystal orb in his left, signaling his role as Salvator Mundi (Latin for ‘Savior of the World’) and representing the ‘celestial sphere’ of the heavens. Around 20 other versions of the work are known, by students and followers of Leonardo. Preparatory chalk and ink drawings of the drapery by Leonardo are held in the British Royal Collection.
Long thought to be a copy of a lost original, veiled with overpainting, it was restored, rediscovered, and included in a major Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, London, in 2011–2012. Although several leading scholars consider it to be an original work by Leonardo da Vinci, the damage left by overpainting and subsequent restoration attempts has made it difficult to analyze, and full attribution has been disputed by many specialists.
It is one of fewer than 20 known works by Leonardo, and was the only one to remain in a private collection. It was sold at auction for $450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s in New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah, setting a new record for most expensive painting ever sold at public auction. Prince Badr allegedly made the purchase on behalf of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, but it has since been posited that he may have been a stand-in bidder for his close ally and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. This follows late-2017 reports that the painting would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the unexplained cancellation of its scheduled September 2018 unveiling. The current location of the painting has been reported as unknown, but it may be in a storage facility in Geneva.