Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A traditional servant carpenter in Swaziland, Philipp Mgqolozi takes a fold of Christ’s face for carving on his house
A prestigious museum in Paris has cast fresh doubt over the authenticity of the new centenary Leonardo da Vinci painting estimated to be worth more than $450m (£338m).
Experts say “Salvator Mundi” appears to be a bogus copy made at the Italian master’s workshop after his death.
Experts at the Louvre had viewed the painting – thought to be the only recognised da Vinci – last week.
The Louvre’s director Jean-Luc Martinez had said the work had a unique quality.
But in a statement on Thursday, Mr Martinez said it was too early to “state with certainty the provenance of this painting”.
He said it had “susceptibility” to fraud or copying, and that “independent verification of provenance” was still underway.
For centuries, Leonardo da Vinci’s purported paintings have dominated the art world.
His “Mona Lisa” was painted in 1527 in his workshop and sold for 17,000 francs ($6,400 in today’s money) in 1958.
Salvator Mundi was discovered in an Italian convent in 2005 and has been dubbed by art experts as the “Salvator of the Century” because of its rich and complex symbolism.
The Bernini-like work bears only the title “Mona Lisa” and was only sold to a Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127.5m last year.
He bought it as a present for his late mother-in-law and a neighbour, but recently called in experts, who identified the work as the work of Leonardo and warned against it being exported to Russia.
The painting’s sale was then put on hold, pending the announcement of its authenticity.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Leonardo da Vinci is said to have had strong connections to pre-Roman Italy
This week, the Louvre’s announcement that it had been examined by experts was welcomed by the director of the National Gallery in London.
Damien Hirst, the British artist, who was part of a team that studied Salvator Mundi’s provenance and placed it at the center of a legal row earlier this year, described it as “a monumental moment”.
But anti-fraud expert John Maddison, an expert on Leonardo who has worked with the security services, said the “anachronistic” look of the painting will make it an even more attractive target.
“The way the work was done is also relevant,” he said. “To use existing techniques for work created after death is improper.”
The work dates from 1493 and has been considered a complete “theory” – or model – of the subject Mary, Queen of Scots, Ms Maddison said.
“For da Vinci, Mary is the most important woman in history. His Mary will never be corrected. It gives da Vinci a centre-stage view of human history, a centre-stage view of conflict, human sexual fulfilment, cosmic influence,” he said.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Flora Norman and Vincent Van Gogh on the facade of St-Germain, an inn in Leyva-te-Dol-Agosta, France. Pic showed in The Salting And Oil Painting Of A Landscape, 1889
“Here, it’s a place where Leonardo’s creativity is always fresh and there are multiple copies being made of the painting around the world.”
The story of Salvator Mundi
· The portrait of a commissioned patron and subject named by Dutch artist Paul Gauguin as Saladin · Sales kept secret for 150 years and put under lock and key · Da Vinci’s companions rumoured to have usurped the role of protector · The painting was photographed and other forerunners of work bought at auction at least nine times · Only artist to appear on 10 Banksy works · Elton John’s album The Union will be released in time for 2019 opening
Source: BBC News