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Short critical note on the "Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci

"Salvator Mundi"

Lifesize Mastercopy by Massimo Tizzano

Oil on poplar wood panel, 65 x 45 cm - Hand made frame

The recent sale of the Salvator Mundi brought on the scene the doubts about its attribution: here are some avenues to be explored, I wrote in 2012, the year in which the painting was rediscovered.

Is it a Leonardo ?

The recent attribution of this painting to the hand of Leonardo Da Vinci has been criticized by many experts and non-experts.

In my humble opinion, as a painter who attempted the very difficult feat to copy some of the works of the Master, is that, given the objective difficulties to overcome for many of the paintings attributed to Leonardo, in order to determine where the work of his hand stops and where begins the one of some of his students (or vice versa), this " Salvator Mundi " certainly reflects the work of the Master.

“Salvator Mundi”

Original by Leonardo

oil on wood, 66 x 46 cm.

With regards to the history of this painting, we will remember only that it was commissioned in 1506 by Louis XII , but was delivered only in 1513 after the death of the Queen (Leonardo was in no hurry to compose his masterpieces!) and then given to a religious order connected with her, in Nantes. A century after Queen Henrietta Maria of England, having seen the picture, she wanted Wenceslaus Hollar to make an engraving of it, to be added to a series of prints of famous paintings that he was making for her.

Wenceslaus Hollar, ”Salvator Mundi”, etching, 1650.

Entered in the collection of Charles Ist before he was executed in 1649, it then passed from the hands of Charles II to those of the collector Sir Francis Cook in 1800.

Attributed to Boltraffio first and then referred to as simple "Milanese School", it was finally purchased by a group of American businessmen headed by Robert Simon who would then recently interested specialists to determine with greater certainty the paternity...

Unfortunately, having not direct access to the technical data (surveys and infrared reflectography ... ) I'll limit here my "investigation" to some facts and to a mere formal similarity with other paintings of the Master.

Shall we talk about the correspondence of the drapery of the painting with the Leonardo's preparatory drawings for his Salvator Mundi?

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519), A study of drapery for a Salvator Mundi,c.1504-8.

Red chalk with touches of white chalk and pen and ink on pale red prepared paper, RCIN 912524.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519), A study of drapery for a Salvator Mundi, c.1504-8.

Red chalk with pen and ink and white heightening on pale red prepared paper, RCIN 912525.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Comparison of the drawing of the dress, with the actual painting

Or should we talk about the fact that nothing in this painting escapes the iron laws of the Aurea Sectio?

The entire face of Christ is modeled on golden proportions:

to know more about the issue, see the study of the golden mask made by Dr. Stephen R. Marquardt

No: I’m proposing you something very simple: a comparison with images of some details of the Salvator, with those of two other of Leonardo's masterpieces, the " San Giovanni Battista " of 1513 (the Louvre ) and the "Madonna of the yarnwinder " of 1501 (private collection, in New York) .

I find this type of comparison can be very useful, both for the common religious theme of the three paintings, and several other common features (but you could also use them to understand the relationship of Leonardo with the Religion or better with the dimension of the Sacred: you could for example highlight in this sense, the androgyny of both male subjects, and the dual expression of the Madonna, in the beautiful painting in New York , which appears for half a quiet and hinting at a mild, sweet smile (left side for the observer) and half on edge , frightened almost, one might say, disgusted (right side ), the hand gesture and the overall pose of her, expressing astonishment , but also the feeling of someone who wants to move away from something that does not understand or does not want to. The gaze of the Child is in fact kidnapped by the yarnwinder / cross that he contemplates with sad eyes and eager at the same time, and in this transport is involved his whole figure, unfolding like a spiral, thing that refers precisely to the fact that the wool yarn wraps from the yarnwinder and takes place from the yarnwinder... ).

"...I was so abducted by the mesmerizing and happily alluding look of this

masterpiece in which Leonardo, although at the end of her years,

fully fulfills all his incredible, childish ability to convert light into shadow

and shadow in light, male to female and the female in male,

the sacred in erotic and erotic in the sacred,

the known in the unknown, the unknown in the known..."

(in front of the St. Jhon by Leonardo da Vinci)

But let's go to the point. In particular, beyond the comparisons made ​​in the laboratories of the National Gallery in London, with monochromatic light of sodium, infrared and ultraviolet rays , tests with X-rays , what plays in favor of this new assignment , are in my opinion the common solemnity of the compositions, the duplicity of the expressions of the characters, given by a particular asymmetry in looks (both the Salvator and St John's have a slight squint in the left eye ) and in the mouth in the case of Mary , the shape of the faces, the noses , eyes , mouths , eyebrows, the refined design of the hands (the laying of the right hand of St. John is almost homologous to that of Salvator Mundi , not to mention the drawing...), the gradient , shadows and highlights masterfully executed on the face, chest , hands , on clothing ...

No one was ever able to paint such perfect curls , more natural and well-shaped than in reality:

Detail of the curls and of the finest design of the decorative wreath (nodo vinciano) of the dress

Finally, it really baffles the similarity of the three characters represented in these three paintings: do they not seem brothers and sisters? And as such, don't they look like the same father's children?

I think we don't need the eye of an expert to say that the difference between this painting and those of any of the best followers of Leonardo, is totally obvious. And excluded the possibility that exists or ever existed on earth a forger so capable, I have no doubt, but-you know- everyone judges for himself and for himself alone. So what do you see?

Massimo Tizzano.

"Salvator Mundi"

Lifesize Mastercopy by Massimo Tizzano

oil on poplar wood

Hand made frame

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