The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting

An epic quest exposes hidden truths about Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, the recently discovered masterpiece that sold for $450 million—and might not be the real thing.

For two centuries, art dealers and historians searched in vain for the Holy Grail of art history: a portrait of Christ as the Salvator Mundi ("Savior of the World") by Leonardo da Vinci. At last, in 2005 a compelling candidate was discovered by a small-time Old Masters dealer at a second-rate auction house in New Orleans. After a six-year restoration, an exhibition at the National Gallery in London, and the help of canny Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, the painting was sold to the news-making Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. After the very-public fallout between Rybolovlev and Bouvier, the painting went on to make headlines again in 2017 as the most expensive painting ever sold when a proxy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman won the masterwork at a Christie's auction for $450 million.

But controversy still surrounds the artwork: Did the auction house—and the art dealers, curators, and art historians behind this find--actually have the right painting, or is there another? Did Leonardo even paint a Salvator Mundi? Some scholars argue he was only occasionally painting at the time the work is dated. Was the painting restored to such an extent that it became a Leonardo, though it was in fact the work of his apprentices? In short: Is it the genuine artifact, the result of a frenzied marketing genius—or perhaps a little of both?

In a thriller-like pursuit of the truth, Ben Lewis examines the five-hundred-year Cinderella-story of this painting and, astonishingly, turns up the smoking guns, including the burnt initials of ownership by an English king on a different Salvator Mundi and the identity of the American family who owned the painting for some of its missing decades. Through this journey, we come to see how the global art market evolved to what it is today, and we are left to ask ourselves what art means to humanity, both past and present.

Title:The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting
ISBN:9781984819253
Format Type:

    The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting Reviews

  • Sue

    The Last Leonardo is an exhaustive look at one painting, Salvator Mundi, thought to be a previously unacknowledged original by Leonardo da Vinci. In this detailed “life of” the painting, Lewis pre...

  • Netta

    If this is the only book about Leonardo da Vinci that you ever read, don’t waste your time. You’d be lost in the crazy, shadowy world of those who love Leonardo, study Leonardo and dare to write a...

  • Lorna

    The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting was a most engaging and meticulously researched book describing the search for what the author, Ben Lewis, describes as "the ...

  • Jill Hutchinson

    In 2017 a new high in the worth of a piece of art (a solitary painting) was set when the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci was sold for $450 million dollars. It was the most an...

  • megan

    Not sure who the intended audience was for this book, which would have benefitted from more rigorous editing. It explains basic art world concepts so is clearly not intended for specialists, yet gets ...

  • Castles

    I have so much to write in my review that I’ll have to take some time to work on it. But for now: bravo!...

  • Ellen

    This was not nearly as good a book as it should have been. Ben Lewis qualifications are admirable and his ideas about the story are there, but the structure just doesn't work. The book is subtitled "T...

  • Claudia

    Sold for $450 million dollars at auction in 2017, this version of Salvator Mundi set a new high price for a piece of artwork. Yet controversial because experts can not agree if it was actually created...

  • Zohar - ManOfLaBook.com

    For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: http://www.ManOfLaBook.comThe Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis is a non-fiction book about Leonard...

  • Mac

    The Last Leonardo has it all, insights into the many dimensions of the art world--the life of Leonardo da Vinci, a genius, and one of the world's greatest painters, a man with a quirky personality...a...