Leonardo da Vinci at the National Gallery.

Christ as Salvator Mundi, currently on loan to the National Gallery from a private collection, is a rare object indeed: a painting newly attributed to the hand of none other than Leonardo da Vinci. Christ wears a light blue gown with a border decorated with knot patterns, not dissimilar to those embroidered into the draperies worn by the Mona Lisa. He holds a transparent orb, symbol of the world, in his left hand, while making a gesture of blessing with his right. His blonde hair falls in ringlets to his shoulders. There is mystery in his clouded eyes and the beginnings of a smile playing on his lips. The picture is certainly Leonardesque. But is it a Leonardo? That is considerably more than a million-dollar question for the consortium of art dealers who acquired the work a few years ago for an undisclosed sum. If the attribution holds up, they can expect to reap 100 million or more as a reward for their good judgement.

Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan is a breathtaking and truly remarkable exhibition, which brings together around half of the fifteen or so surviving paintings created by the most famously dilatory and prevaricating artist of the Italian Renaissance. One of the principal purposes behind the exhibition is to enhance scholarly understanding of the painter and his methods, and if possible resolve some of the knottier issues of attribution.

Two works in particular seem destined to come under scholarly fire. Although it gets the thumbs up from the National Gallerys curator, Luke Syson, there will certainly be those who question the new Christ. The picture undeniably displays a number of the painters characteristic devices and mannerisms, but there are other aspects of it that seem foreign...

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