The history of art advances with intuitions and backs down on the basis of arbitrariness. In a new chapter of a science that works with more hypotheses than tests, the Louvre Museum in Paris is facing the incorporation of Salvator Mundi in the new exhibition that the French institution prepares on Leonardo for next autumn: it will be a tribute to the fifth centenary of the death of the painter in the castle of King Francisco I, in Amboise, in the Loire. "It is a unique opportunity for the Louvre to gather as much as possible of the 17 paintings now attributed to Leonardo", according to specialists, to join the five great works of the Paris museum ", advertise from the institution. What appears on the chart of Salvator Mundi -Included in the sample- will be decisive for the future of most expensive picture in the history of the art market (450 million dollars) and the center with the most prestige in the research of the Renaissance master.
If they take for granted the attribution that burst the prices in November 2017, the finances of Saudi Prince Badr ben Abdallah – who acquired it to be the star icon of the Louvre headquarters in Abu Dabi – will not be resented. If they confirm that it is the work of a workshop, the scientific community will sleep peacefully. The interest of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi puts in check the scientific rigor of the French museum, because the experts have not yet facilitated the attribution with which they will discuss the controversial work and announce that until October they will not announce their decision. In fact, the Louvre of Abu Dhabi itself canceled the presentation of the painting last September and still have not hung it on its walls.
Since it was sold in November 2017, at Christie's New York, this painting without history has gone on to become a painting without supporters. The last critical voice in joining against the authorship that triggered the sale is that of Jacques Frank, advisor to the Louvre in restoration projects of Leonardo's work, which assures the newspaper The Telegraph that in the Louvre "they know that the work is not a Leonardo". The expert declares to have written to Emmanuel Macron, the French president, to warn him not to inaugurate the show with the Salvator Mundi designated as the work of Leonado. "It would be a scandal," says Franck, who explains to the newspaper that France can not afford the "humiliation" of the Louvre when exhibiting a work painted by one of its assistants in the workshop.
Face work without pedigree
Among the deniers of Salvator Mundi is the historian Frank Zöllner, the expert with the key of the catalog of Leonardo, who estimated in his last revision a total of 31 paintings, with works of the workshop included, such as Mona Lisa of the Prado Museum. For Zöllner, the most expensive painting in history is "a high-quality product from Leonardo's studio" or even a later follower. Matthew Landrus, historian of the University of Oxford and expert in Renaissance genius, argues that the painting is the work of Bernardino Luini, Leonardo's assistant in his workshop. The Italian researcher Alessandro Vezzosi – director of the ideale di Vinci Museum – will shortly publish a study on all the works in detail and in which he assures that Salvator Mundi It is too restored to attribute completely to the teacher: "He has a flat face, with a blurred look and an inexpressive look".
Since it was sold in November 2017, at Christie's New York, this painting without history has gone on to become a painting without supporters
Leonardo's workshop is in all its dimensions a mystery. Especially in its last twenty years of production. The first generation of helpers had a very strong personality and the next litter had stronger aesthetic links with the teacher, as is the case with Sarai and Melzi. It is very difficult to distinguish the plastic personality of each one and its production is completely ignored. This further complicates the duties of assistants and teacher.
All the criticisms point to that we are facing a painting without pedigree, but very expensive. It has not been until it has come to light when it has been thoroughly investigated. It was previously thought to have been made for King Louis XII of France and his consort, who commissioned it (in 1500) shortly after the French conquest of Milan. Subsequently, the painting appears in England, in the seventeenth century, in the hands of Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria, who took the picture with him until the execution of the king, in 1649. However, a recent investigation by Jeremy Wood indicates that the painting of Leonardo was in the residence of the first Duke of Hamilton, in Chelsea, between 1638 and 1641, as his inventory indicates. What is impossible to determine is whether the Salvator Mundi of Hamilton – identified as "Leonardo's work" – is that of Abu Dhabi … because there are at least 20 copies of the Salvator circulating around the world. In fact, some experts indicate that the painting that is now attributed to Giampietrino at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow it could be the one in the inventory of Charles I and Hamilton, not Abu Dhabi.
Leonardo is one of the characters in the history of art with less evidence to limit his past and, therefore, one of the greatest possibilities for the hypothesis. These days we have witnessed an intense debate within the National Library about the speculations that have turned Leonardo into the greatest literary and historical reconstruction of the last century and a half. Art historians do not usually have many proofs, but in their favor they have outstanding literary skills to make their certainty credible when it comes to attributing, mounting and dismantling events on a painting.
An advisor to the Louvre declares that "it would be a scandal" and a "humiliation" for the Louvre to include painting as Leonardo's work
Vincent Delieuvin himself, chief curator of the sixteenth-century painting of the Louvre, declared to this journalist years ago that the difference between The Gioconda of the Louvre and the Mona Lisa del Prado was "Leonardo's magic brush". And he clarified that to distinguish between the author of the table of the Madrid museum -whether it is- and the table of the French museum must go to the lyric: "Both use the same materials, but Leonardo's work is poetry" . The French curator found that in all the contemporary copies that were made of Leonardo's works, "the faces are very heavy, while theirs are truly divine."