Wednesday, October 25, 2017

An audience with Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi at Christie's London.



During my latest visit to London, I had the fortune of viewing Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, recently authenticated by experts. Christies announced that it would be put on auction on November 15. The artwork is expected to fetch astronomical sums. The last time it was put on auction in 1958, it fetched just 45 pounds. 

Learning that "The Last da Vinci" was to be shown in London, I was grateful for the happy coincidence. On the first day of the public viewing, which happened to be my last day in London, I started off to Christies at 8 King Street, after finishing my usual rounds of 10 km run in Hyde Park.
As I approached the venue, I was apprehensive of the wait time. Fortunately, the queue was not that long, perhaps due to the fact it was still early in the day. There were only six people before me. 

However, the movement of the queue was very slow. Apparently, given the nature of the venue (it's Christie's, after all) and people (some of them might actually be considering a purchase), they were taking extra time to admire the recovered work of the genius.
When I finally turned around the corner and the painting came into view, I understood the real reason why the movement had been so slow. 

It was such a fascinating painting. Once enraptured by it, it was really hard to leave. 
Christ's right hand is giving benediction. The luminance coming from the crossed fingers is counterbalanced by the subtle nuances of the face on one hand, and the serene, detached beauty of the crystal ball on the other, in an exquisite trinity of artistic motifs. As with Mona Lisa, the countenance of the savior, Jesus Christ, seemed to be conveying a poignant enigma.
The mystery of that expression would perhaps never be solvable, as in the case of Mona Lisa. People would discuss the "meaning" of the Salvator Mundi for many years to come.





Walking along the streets of London, I thought about the unique position that a savior of the world is placed. What does it take to sacrifice oneself for the redemption of the original sin of all humanity? What would the emotion of the savior be, as he reflects on his own destiny. Would it be resignation, sorrow, joy, pride, sense of duty, resilience, or sheer rapture?

Later that day, sitting on a chair at Heathrow, I felt as if, in some strange sense, I have encountered the person of Jesus Christ himself, in the house of Christie's. At the least, I had a sense of a reverberating intimacy of physical closeness. 

The very vividness and mastery coordinations of Leonardo's artistic expressions perhaps did that trick. 
As far as I was concerned, I met Jesus Christ in London, on that morning.
That would be what you would call the magic of a great work of art.

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