Lowy and the Lost Leonardo: Framing a Superstar
This story is every art lover’s fantasy. A dealer wanders into a small regional sale down South, spies a dark, overpainted canvas his instincts tell him might be something significant, pays about $10,000 for it, and walks away with what turns out to be a lost masterpiece by none other than one of the greatest artists of all time, Leonardo da Vinci. This is the story of Salvator Mundi, a spectacular, Mona Lisa-like portrait of Jesus Christ by the Italian master. The now-legendary painting, which disappeared from 1763 until 1900 and was then mistakenly attributed to one of Leonardo’s followers, was found in 2006 and finally identified as a lost work by the artist in 2010. One of fewer than twenty works in existence by Leonardo, the remarkable painting (and the riveting story of its discovery, restoration, and authentication) has generated headlines all over the world. And in November, Christies will help the painting to find its forever home at a highly-anticipated auction, with an estimated price of…sky’s the limit!
But before Salvator Mundi’s recent pre-auction world tour and upcoming big night on the block, the painting needed to be married to the perfect frame. Robert Simon, an eminent da Vinci expert and one of the painting’s first owners, says, “"I looked all over Europe for the ideal antique Italian frame for this painting, but …[it was] right under my nose here in New York. " Lowy is proud to announce that the frame deemed worthy to surround what has been called “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 21st century” was provided by Lowy, selected from the company’s vast collection of antique frames.
When Larry Shar, Lowy’s president, was asked how he would approach framing Salvator Mundi, he immediately thought of a stunning 16th century cassetta frame with an unusual beauty and majesty all its own. “The frame probably dates a bit later in the 16th century than the painting,” Shar explains, “but stylistically the cassetta (small box) frame encases Christ in such a way as to make him appear celestial and divine, while the antique black finish brings the painting back down to earth for the viewer. The gilded stenciled calligraphic designs in the corners, centers, and demi-centers add flourish and decoration, which speaks to the kinetic energy in the painting and echoes the locks of his hair and illuminates the image, so the eye focuses on the Christ's face and hands.” The result? A magnificent pairing of painting and frame that Shar calls “close to perfection.”
Shar, who has framed many great works of art in his time, says that having a Leonardo in the house was a first for Lowy, and he was struck by Salvator Mundi’s serious, sober, and contemplative beauty. But with his typical wit, Shar describes the painting’s storied journey from obscurity to celebrity with this observation: “The ironic part for us, and maybe for our readership, is that a masterpiece by Leonardo was found down South, and its perfect frame was in New York City. Go figure!”