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  • Writer's pictureVan Weyenbergh Fine Art

Bambach attributes the Leonardo Da Vinci sold $ 450M to an assistant of the Master

Carmen C. Bambach publishes on June 25 a study attributing the painting largely to an assistant of the master.

We can not see it anymore , but we never talked about it that much. The Salvator Mundi remains invisible to the public since its sensational auction at Christie's for $ 450 million: a world record set in November 2017 by the London auction house acquired, it is thought, by a Saudi prince close to the heir Mohammed Ben Salman. This absence opened the door to the most fanciful speculations, but also left the field open to the doubts of many experts, for whom the attribution to Leonard remains questionable. Metropolitan Museum curator Carmen C. Bambach , one of Leonard's most-watched specialists, joins this concert of dissonant voices.

The Guardian reveals that the art historian would not have appreciated the use of his name by the auction house to legitimize the attribution to Leonard. On the chart sheet , Christie's quotes Bambach three times from a list of recognized experts: "The study and analysis of the table by these researchers resulted in a broad consensus on the attribution from Salvator Mundi to Leonardo da Vinci " , says the site of the auction house.

"This is not representative of my opinion," asserted Sunday the art historian in the columns of the Guardian . If in 2008, Carmen C. Bambach was invited by the National Gallery to see the painting, she never gave her blank check on the use of her name. In early May 2019, she said that she had received an email from the National Gallery, asking her if she would agree to have her name published among the researchers who saw the Salvator Mundi in 2008. What she refused to answer: "If my name is on this list, it means tacitly that I agree with the attribution. Which is not the case. "

In a study-sum published June 25 by Yale University, Carmen C. Bambach assigns the majority of the painting to an assistant of the master, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio. According to her, Leonard would only be the author of a few alterations, too insignificant to consider the Salvator Mundi as an autograph. She joins the opinion of Jacques Franck , expert consultant for the Louvre, for whom the work is probably that of an assistant: drapes, hair, and the general lack of relief can not be in the hands of Leonard. In 2018, Matthew Landrus of Oxford University already expressed similar reservations.

Doubts over attribution are intensifying in 2019, with the publication of Salvator Mundi: The Last Leonardo last April. This work by documentarian and art critic Ben Lewis recounts in the form of an espionage novel the chaotic story of this presumed Leonard. His painstaking work undermines the hypothesis that the Salvator Mundi was part of the collection of Charles I: this provenance is yet one of the keystones of the attribution to Leonardo for the National Gallery.

In the wake of this publication, Ben Lewis revealed that most curators of the Louvre did not want to present the painting as an autograph, at the exhibition of 500 years of Leonardo , but rather as "workshop of ... » . Other experts like Frank Zöllner are now publicly reporting their doubts in academic publications.

Together, these critics weigh enough for a British tabloid headline spectacularly last week "Mohammed Ben Salman spends $ 450 million for a fake Leonard . "

The attribution of the work to Leonardo remains however defended by the National Gallery, which exhibited the painting for the first time as Leonardo in 2011 , and other experts such as Luke Syson or Martin Kemp.

Journal des Arts.

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