Auction house Christie’s has insisted that Leonardo Da Vinci was the true creator of the world’s most expensive painting Salvator Mundi, amid doubts about its origins.
The portrait of Jesus was sold for $450million in New York and acquired by the Saudi royal family in 2017.
But experts have warned of ‘telling details’, including a poorly-drawn finger, suggesting it was made by Da Vinci’s workshop and not by the painter himself.
Disputed: The painting Salvator Mundi, a portrait of Jesus dating to around 1500, has been the subject of scepticism by art experts who believe it may not be genuine Da Vinci work
A Christie’s spokesman said: ‘We stand by the thorough research and scholarship that led to the attribution of this painting in 2010.
‘No new discussion or speculation since the 2017 sale at Christie’s has caused us to revisit its position.’
But many art experts remain unconvinced of the painting’s authenticity.
‘Certain details are very telling,’ said Jacques Franck, a specialist in Da Vinci’s technique.
Highlighting the painting’s poor depiction of a finger, he said some elements of the painting were ‘anatomically impossible’.
At the time the canvas was painted in around 1500, Da Vinci had his workshop complete certain paintings because he himself had very little time, he said.
Auction: Bidding representatives react after Salvator Mundi is sold for $450million at Christie’s in New York in November 2017
Daniel Salvatore Schiffer, another Da Vinci expert, also believes the painting was not done by the Italian master.
‘When you analyse the details, nothing is by Leonardo, it doesn’t have his spirit.’
But Diane Modestini, who worked on the restoration of the painting from 2005, said she did not understand the controversy, insisting that ‘Leonardo da Vinci painted it’.
The painting has not been displayed in public since the auction in New York in November 2017.
It was due to go on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in September last year, but its unveiling was postponed without explanation.
Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism apparently ‘acquired’ the painting after it was purchased by the UAE’s close ally, Saudi Arabia.
The artwork, said to be by Leonardo Da Vinci (pictured left), was acquired in 2017, apparently in the name of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (pictured right)
The buyer was reported to be Saudi prince Badr ben Abdallah, acting in the name of powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Prince Badr was appointed to head the kingdom’s culture ministry in a government shakeup in June.
According to information service Artprice, a public display has been blocked on religious grounds by clerics at Al-Azhar university in Cairo.
Jesus is seen as a prophet in Islam, which prohibits any physical depiction of God. But the picture portrays him as a saviour and thus a deity.
The Louvre in Paris has asked Abu Dhabi for the painting to be given on loan ahead of a Da Vinci exhibition later this year, but has received no response.
The French and Italian Presidents will travel to the Loire Valley on Thursday to mark Da Vinci’s death there in 1519.