David Nolta doesn’t mince words in his assessment of “Salvator Mundi.” “The sale does not necessarily have any more to do with scholarship than the picture has to do with Leonardo,” he explains.
Last week’s Christie’s auction grabbed all the major headlines because of the mind-boggling amount paid for “Salvator Mundi,” a Renaissance artwork the auction house says with certainty is by the hand of Leonardo da Vinci. But the conversation hasn’t stopped there. Pundits and scholars have continued to debate whether the Leonardo attribution is accurate.
The Salvator Mundi goes bling (gif by the author for Hyperallergic)
Most recently, Thomas Campbell, formerly the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, posted an image of a pre-conservation “Salvator Mundi” on his Instagram account with the phrase, “450 million dollars?! Hope the buyer understands conservation issues…”
Old Master dealer Robert B. Simon shot back on the same post, “Dr. Campbell, this is an incredibly ill-informed and mean-spirited comment about one of the most respected painting conservators in the world, one who incidentally spent many years diligently working at your former institution. I personally observed the conservation process on the Salvator Mundi and can attest to the absolute honesty, modesty, and respect that Dianne Modestini brought to her work on the painting — carried out at the highest ethical standards of the profession. Given the prevalence of so many foolish remarks in both serious and social media, I have refrained from responding, but feel compelled to do so now.”
But Campbell wasn’t amused and replied, “my comment was a legitimate response to an extraordinary price. Christie’s doesn’t need your abusive bullying to defend itself. And my comment certainly wasn’t an attack on a highly competent conservator. If you don’t enjoy my occasional Instagram posts then don’t follow me.”…………………