Hype, Fraud, and Leonardo da Vinci

Dianne Modestini and Ashok Roy inspecting the Naples copy of the Salvator Mundi in The Lost Leonardo. (2019). (Adam Jandrup/Sony Pictures Classics)
The strange saga of how an obscure work hanging in a home in Louisiana became acclaimed as the most valuable painting on the planet.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE H ow did a painting that earlier this century was hanging over some guy’s stairwell in Louisiana, and sold for a pittance 16 years ago, become acclaimed as both the last and the lost Leonardo? Why is it now worth $450 million? Willful self-deception seems to have happened at several junctures. People want to have a transcendent experience. And they’re desperately attracted to fame. In the documentary The Lost Leonardo, art historian Frank Zöllner predicts that in a few decades the art world will be saying, “How could these idiots of the early 21st century see this as a Leonardo painting?”

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