Friday, November 17, 2017

Salvator Mundi & the Folly of Wealth

 Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi'

...but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust[a]consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light;  but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Matthew 6:20-24 (NRSV)

Holy Antiques Road Show! The art world was stunned a couple of days ago by the auction of what became the most expensive painting ever sold. Sixty years ago this painting, now called Salvator Mundi, was sold for under a hundred dollars. At that time is was considered an enigmatic image created by an unknown Renaissance artist. After years of verification and restoration it was attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, one of history's most famous painters, and is considered to be an image of Christ, Saviour of the World.

There are only 80 or so works attributed to Leonardo, so while this piece hasn't been absolutely attributed to him, the desire to possess it reached a fever pitch. Only four years ago it was purchased by a Russian collector for $127 million. He has been cranky because of  the speculation that he had overpaid. It was assumed that he would take a considerable loss, with the painting not even reaching its reserve bid of $100 million. Well, US $450 million later, the owner and the auction house made a tidy gain. Think of it, that's more than half a billion Canadian for a painting whose provenance is uncertain!

We could talk all day about how any object is valued, whether it is the diamond necklace which sold in Geneva earlier this week for "only" $34 million, or the $700,000 paid for one of the late Prince's guitars, or the junk from your garage sale.

The buyer of Salvator Mundi should be grateful that Jesus is not the "smiting" sort, because a well-aimed bolt of lightning might have emanated from the heavens at the conclusion of the auction. Yeshua, the Jewish peasant, talked a lot about the dark power of wealth. It's misuse was a far more important topic for Jesus than sex, or just about anything else.

Were you amazed or appalled by the outcome? Were you one of the anonymous phone bidders? Is a fool and his money soon parted?

Bye the bye, I'm reading the excellent new biography about Leonardo by Walter Isaacson and I'll probably write more about the book later.

Image result for leonardo biography walter isaacson

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