Sony Pictures Classics has released the first trailer for its upcoming documentary, The Lost Leonardo. From director Andreas Koefoed, The Lost Leonardo follows the unbelievable true story of the Salvator Mundi, a painting bought for $1,175 at a New Orleans auction house that was brought to international attention when a restorer claimed it was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.
That claim, and the debate over its veracity, would eventually launch the value of the painting to astronomical heights. When the painting was auctioned at Christie’s in 2017, it sold for $450 million, making it the most valuable painting ever sold. As one commentator puts it in the trailer, “This is the most improbable story that has ever happened in the art market.”
At the center of the debate is art conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, who concluded that the painting was not a copy, but the lost original of the famous Da Vinci painting. “No one could have painted this except Leonardo,” insists Modestini. The trailer features voices of agreement and dismissal of Modestini’s claim, but there’s no denying the impact the story had on the price of the painting. With less than twenty surviving Da Vinci paintings, the value of a heretofore unknown piece would be incalculable.
The story only gets more interesting from there, pulling in issues of power and world politics. “Whenever there’s a lot of money involved, the world becomes a bunch of worms intertwined,” suggests one commentator, explaining the media circus that ensued, and the mysterious circumstances around its ultimate sale.
The story is incredible, and the film promises to examine it from all angles, pulling in an international array of experts and witnesses. Was this the unlikely discovery of a lost masterpiece, or a slow-motion long-con played on the art market? Even if the film can’t ultimately answer that question, it looks like a thrilling ride.
The Lost Leonardo opens in New York and LA on August 13. Check out the trailer below.