Da Vinci portrait of Christ expected to fetch $100 million at auction

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"Standing in front of this momentous canvas, the viewer is fully immersed by Leonardo's vision, but seen through the eyes of Andy Warhol", the house's contemporary chairman, Alex Rotter, said. Christie's will have the great privilege of presenting Salvator Mundi in upcoming exhibitions in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY, marking the first opportunities for the public in Asia and the Americas to see this exceptional and iconic work of art. That work's estimated price is $50 million, the Times said.

Originally painted for the French royal family around 1500, the portrait was thought to be lost from 1763 to 1900.

"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time", Loic Gouzer, chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art for Christie's NY, said in a statement released by the auction house.

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The 2ft 2in x 18in (66 x 45cm) oil on walnut panel later featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery in London as a new discovery of a work by Leonardo, becoming only one of 20 known surviving paintings generally accepted as from the artist's own hand.

Christie's in NY on Tuesday unveiled what it called "the biggest discovery of the 21st century" - the haunting, mesmerising painting of Christ holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in benediction. It was a commission by an unknown party (though most likely the French court), first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I, where it hung in the bed chamber of his wife, Henrietta Maria, in her Greenwich Palace. (To understand the importance of this event in the art world, the last time a Da Vinci was discovered was 1909.) It was concealed at Christie's behind opaque sliding glass doors until the moment it was announced-the invitation to the press event ("You are invited to a first-ever unveiling of AN UNPRECEDENTED MASTERPIECE") showed a giant question mark in a gilded frame. Christ's face and hair had been overpainted, and the work was ultimately consigned to a sale at Sotheby's in 1958, where it sold for just 45 British pounds.

In what is being billed by Christie's as "the biggest discovery of the 21st century", the auction house unveiled in NY this morning its previously top secret and "most thrilling acquisition to date": Salvator Mundi ("Savior of the World"), a formerly lost masterwork by Leonardo da Vinci that is believed to be the artist's last painting.

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It disappeared once again and emerged in 2005 when it was purchased from a USA estate at a small regional auction house.

The work was executed a year before the artist's death. "I can hardly convey how exciting it is for those of us directly involved in its sale".

The auction house did not identify the seller, a European private collector who acquired the work after its rediscovery in 2005 and lengthy restoration.

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Prior to an extended pre-sale exhibition in New York, Christie's will tour this exceptional painting to key locations around the world, including Hong Kong, San Francisco and London. On November 15, it will be sold in NY.

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