The painting smashed the world record for any work of art sold at auction. The buyer's name is not yet known.

Christie's staff and Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi', on show in London, October 2017.
Christie's staff and Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi', on show in London, October 2017. (Reuters)

A painting of Jesus Christ by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record $450 million at auction on Wednesday, obliterating previous records for artworks sold at auction or privately.

'Salvator Mundi' (Saviour of the World) is one of fewer than 20 paintings by da Vinci known to exist, and the only one in private hands.

It was sold by Christie's auction house, which didn't immediately identify the buyer.

The previous highest price paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million, for Picasso's 'Women of Algiers (Version O)' in May 2015, also at Christie's in New York.

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $300 million for Willem de Kooning's 'Interchange', sold privately in September 2015 by the David Geffen Foundation to hedge fund manager Kenneth C Griffin.

TRT World's Frank Ucciardo has more from New York.

Salvator Mundi

The 66-centimetre-high (26-inch) painting dates from around 1500 and shows Jesus Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.

Its path from da Vinci's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth. Once owned by King Charles I of England, it disappeared from view until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. At that time it was attributed to a da Vinci disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000. The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by da Vinci.

The painting was sold Wednesday by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

Christie's says most scholars agree that the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship.

Christie's capitalised on the public's interest in da Vince, considered one of the greatest artists of all time, with a media campaign that labelled the painting 'The Last Da Vinci'. The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and New York before the sale.

In New York, where no museum owns a da Vinci, art lovers lined up outside Christie's Rockefeller Center headquarters on Tuesday to view 'Salvator Mundi'.

Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in New York, called the painting "spectacular."

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," she said. "It should be seen. It's wonderful it's in New York. I'm so lucky to be in New York at this time."

Source: AP