At an obscure New Orleans auction house, two guys (Robert Simon and Alex Parrish) find a beat up, heavily restored, painting on wood panel. It appears to be 16th century. The subject is that of Christ with a “je ne sais quoi” about it. They pay virtually nothing for it, $ 1,175 which is way less than the $ 10,000 they claimed. The restoration person (Diane Modestini) who sees everything senses something very special as well. So, they set about establishing a provenance.
Ben Lewis has written a captivating narrative on that real life search to verify an unknown Leonardo daVinci that has been lost for 500 years. His thorough research and interviews reads like a good mystery book. The stories characters include kings, industrialists, ordinary Americans, Leonardo experts, as well as a Russian oligarch and a middle east sultan. He cracks a door open to give us a peek into a world of art business that is not transparent, full of controversy and a bit corrupt. As the world’s most expensive painting at $450 million, there remains little agreement as to a definitive yes or no regarding the master’s hand actually creating the Salvator Mundi. And, to this day the painting’s last purchaser has not yet publicly exhibited it. Where is it?