What’s Weird About Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi?

November 16, 2017  • Institute Staff

Walter Isaacson describes Leonardo Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi painting. He points out the “weird science thing” that puzzles some viewers of the artwork.

Isaacson recently completed a biography of Leonardo. He is the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute.

Salvator Mundi made a splash in the art world when it was sold at auction for $450 million on November 15, 2017. The painting is the only Leonardo work in private hands and was authenticated very recently. Like his earlier works, Leonardo used the sfumato technique to create softened lines around Jesus’ face and robes. The lines of his hands that appear closest to the viewer are sharpest.

The sale of the painting has also reignited the debate over why the robes behind the orb in Jesus’s left hand are not distorted. Isaacson believes this was purposeful — Leonardo’s notebooks reveal his knowledge of how glass would warp any object behind it. Isaacson’s favorite explanation is that Leonardo was indicating that Christ is miraculous.

This discussion of the Salvator Mundi painting is part of a lengthier conversation on Isaacson’s biography of Da Vinci, recorded October 20, 2017 in Washington, DC.