5 main mysteries of the most expensive painting in the history of painting: “Savior of the world” by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the brightest minds in the history of mankind. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Savior of the World” is called “the most beautiful sign of a question that has ever been written.” And at the same time, this is one of the most expensive paintings in the world, with which there are a lot of scandals, puzzles and secrets. What conceals this canvas and what causes its scandalousness?
The painting depicts the figure of Christ – a long-haired man with a beard who looks directly at the viewer. He raised one hand with a blessing, and in the other holds a transparent sphere.
Riddle No. 1 – Who is the author of the picture?
A number of art historians believe that the work was done by the Leonardescans (these are Lombard Renaissance artists, whose work was greatly influenced by the manner of Leonardo da Vinci himself). The painting could also be done by students or the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci. Matthew Landrus, an academic at Oxford, even issued a statement stating that this work was not Leonardo, but that it was done by his third-party copycat Bernardino Luini
When the true author is unknown, a number of facts prove the version of Leonardo’s brush:
1. The pronounced sphumato technique
It is well known that the artistic principle of the sphumato was invented by Leonardo. Thanks to this technique, the heroes of his paintings turn from painted figures into real people of flesh and blood. Leonardo began to darken the expressed parts of the hands and face (hands, chin, forehead, nose, fingers), which looked like smooth transitions from light to shadow and acquired the effect of nebula. It was this technique that he used to create his famous Mona Lisa. Sfumato is also used in the Savior, to a greater extent, which gave the face of Jesus a translucent face and nebula.
2. Androgynous facial features
The similarity between “Mona Lisa” and “Savior” is so obvious that the second picture is called the male version of “Mona Lisa”. Indeed, the eyes, nose, hair and upper lip look the same. It is likely that this proves the authorship of Leonardo. There is something else that unites Mona Lisa and the Savior. Leonardo intended to give the heroes androgynous features. The male characters of Leonardo have female traits, and the female ones have a number of masculine features. Such is the figure of a beautiful young man in Leonardo’s painting “St. John the Baptist” or the angel from the painting “Madonna in the Rocks”. So the facial features of the “Savior” are quite soft.
3. Found sketches of the “Savior”
In 2008, a panel of experts acknowledged that the work was indeed written by Leonardo da Vinci. Together with the picture were found sketches of the “Savior” and the engraving of 1650, made by the famous printer, could be another evidence. The inscription on it read: “Leonardo da Vinci painted it.” As an anatomist, Leonardo painted his hands very well. The right hand is depicted really masterfully. The clothes are also written in the style of Leonardo (shirt and sleeves are written with great realism, the ornament on the robe is especially admired). Moreover, these details coincide with the original sketches of the master, which are exhibited at Windsor Castle.
On closer inspection, one can notice pentimento (the transcribed palm). Initially, the palm was smaller, but the master made it wider, i.e. artist adjustments are visible to the naked eye. The presence of significant deviations from the original plan indicates the originality of the work.
5. Unified colors in the paintings “Savior” and “Madonna in the Rocks”
“Madonna in the Rocks” exhibited at the National Gallery in London. This museum was the first to recognize the authenticity of the “Savior of the world.” The fact is that the gallery staff had a compelling argument: by examining the pigments of the Savior’s paint, they proved their absolute identity with the Madonna in the Rocks paint.
Riddle No. 2 – The Orb of Christ: Intentional Mistake of the Author?
In addition to the face of Jesus, the brightest and most mysterious detail in the picture is a glass sphere like the symbol of the earth.
In traditional representations of the “Savior of the world,” one can often find a crystal ball representing the heavenly sphere and symbolizing the supreme power of God. Before Columbus discovered America in 1492, people believed that the Earth was flat. Could this knowledge of Leonardo be a prediction for people that the earth is round? In the end, if you look at other “Savior” of that period, you can see that the plot is repeated by both German and Dutch artists.
But Leonardo’s sphere is unique in that it seems unthinkable in the work of the “Renaissance man” – the picture contains a clear mistake.
The sphere has a scientific error in the realism of refraction and distortion of light passing through a crystal ball. In fact, the reflection of the ball should reveal a tiny inverted image of Christ’s tunic and his hand, which holds the ball. The great inventor Leonardo knew the science of optics, physics and had a deep understanding of the refraction of light. Why did he go against his own knowledge in the case of the “Savior of the world”? Is this a deliberate mistake or was the author of the picture actually a different master who did not have knowledge of optics?