Is Leonardo da Vinci’s Record-Setting ‘Salvator Mundi’ Going to the Louvre?

Jean-Luc Martinez says he hopes to secure the work for a Leonardo exhibition next year.

A visitor takes a photo of the painting 'Salvator Mundi' by Leonardo da Vinci at Christie's New York. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Is the Louvre Museum getting another world-class Leonardo da Vinci to hang alongside the Mona Lisa?

If the museum’s director Jean-Luc Martinez has his way, it will—at least temporarily.

Hyperallergic‘s Ben Sutton was the first to flag an interview between Martinez and French radio station RTL in which the museum director revealed that he hoped to borrow the work for a blockbuster Leonardo exhibition next year. The presentation will coincide with the 30th anniversary celebration of the “Grand Louvre” renovation and expansion.

“We hope to see Salvator Mundi in Paris,” Martinez said. “The goal is to gather the greatest number of works by Leonardo.” The Louvre owns five of the 15 extant Leonardo paintings.

The spooky Jesus smashed all previous records when it sold for $450 million at Christie’s two weeks ago. It also set off an international debate over the quality of the extensively-restored work and the outrageous prices the world’s richest are willing to pay for art.

Reached for further comment, a representative for the Louvre demurred. “The Louvre is currently working on the list of the loans for the Leonardo da Vinci 2019 exhibition. It is too early to communicate on that list.”

In the brief radio exchange, Martinez also made it clear that he was never interested in spending the considerable capital required to make Salvator Mundi a permanent part of the Louvre’s collection. “Should we have tried to acquire it?” he asked. “The answer was no.”

The art-world rumor mill has gone into overdrive ever since the Salvator Mundi sale. The identity of the buyer has been floated as the hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, Walmart heiress Alice Waltontwo investment funds, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, among others.

Whether or not the Louvre can wrangle Salvator Mundi from the clutches of its still-anonymous buyer, the Leonardo exhibition is sure to be filled with revelations. In the lead-up to the show—the details of which have yet to be formally announced—researchers are also investigating whether a charcoal sketch of a nude figure that resembles the Mona Lisa may in fact be the work of Leonardo. The drawing, known as the Mona Vanna, had previously been attributed to the master’s studio.

If the Louvre does manage to secure Salvator Mundi, it will have to work overtime to address the inevitable concerns about security and crowd control. Just yesterday, the Louvre was named the most Instagrammed museum in the world. It is also the most highly attended, with 7.4 million visitors last year alone. Those with personal space issues may want to skip the Leonardo extravaganza.


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