Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

There's a 'Salvator Mundi' at the Louvre's latest Leonardo show – but not the one we're all talking about

The most expensive painting in the world didn't make it to the Paris museum's major retrospective, but a similar work did

It’s not quite the Salvator Mundi we've all been talking about, but it’ll have to do for now.

When the Louvre Museum in Paris opened its major Leonardo da Vinci retrospective on Thursday, visitors were eager to find out whether the most expensive artwork in the world would make an appearance.

It did not, but another very similar work did. The other Salvator Mundi, markedly different from the missing version with its bearded Christ figure, is attributed to the studio of Leonardo da Vinci (so was likely not painted by the man himself), and was previously shown at the Museo Diocesano in Naples as part of the de Ganay collection.

It is believed to have been painted around 1500, the same time as its more elusive twin.

The painting is part of the Louvre’s largest exhibition on Leonardo – timed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Italian Renaissance master's death – featuring around 160 works, including loans from the British Museum and the Vatican. Drawings and well-known works such as the La belle ferronnière (Portrait of an Unknown Woman), Benois Madonna (Madonna and Child with Flowers) and the Vitruvian Man are also on view.

The ‘real’ Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo in 2011, was sold at a Christie’s auction in November 2017 for a record-breaking $450m (Dh1.65bn). In December 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted that the painting would come to the museum, but didn't give a date.

Despite the painting’s absence, the Louvre’s current exhibition has a rich display for visitors to see. It tells the story of the Italian artist’s life as gleaned from sources such as Giorgio Vasari’s biography, and the works guide visitors through Leonardo’s career, from his early days as an apprentice to his time producing commissions for patrons in Florence, Milan and Rome.

The curators Vincent Delieuvin and Louis Frank have also put together insightful displays for visitors, including an installation of infrared photographs that show layers of and drawings underneath the canvasses surface.

There’s another well-known Leonardo work that’s not in the retrospective. The Mona Lisa remains in its gallery upstairs behind bulletproof glass. But visitors can take a virtual reality tour of the piece, complete with 3D views, in another part of the museum.

The exhibition is on view until February 2020.

Updated: October 27, 2019 02:54 PM

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