Tonight, at an absolutely packed salesroom at Christie’s headquarters at Rockefeller Center in New York, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) sold for $450.3 million.
That figure is, by a long shot, the all-time record for a painting at auction and the most ever believed to have been paid for an artwork.
The work had carried a guarantee understood to be around $100 million, so it was a certainty to sell, but the bidding blew past that number quickly and kept going over the course of 19 minutes.
Scattered applause and whistles went through the salesroom when the work reached $200 million, causing the auctioneer, Jussi Pylkkanen, to shush the crowd. The bidding slowed around $230 million, as bidders dueled, but it kept climbing—to $240 million, then $250 million, then $255 million, then $260 million. The bidding increments slowed, climbing by $2 million at a time, to $268 million, then $270 million. It reached $282 million, then $284 million. “Still two of you in the game here,” Pylkkanen said.
As he moved toward a sale, the bidding jumped to $286 million, which was then answered with $300 million. “I thought so,” Pylkkanen said, as the room erupted in laughter and cheers. The bidding sat there for a moment. “We’ll wait. Historic moment here,” he said.