The Prado’s verdict is recorded in the index of the exhibition catalog, which has a list of paintings “by Leonardo” and another of “attributed works, workshop or authorized and supervised by Leonardo.” The Gulf painting falls into the second category, where it is known as the Cook version (it was purchased in 1900 by London-based Francis Cook). Although the show focuses on the Prado’s copy of the “Mona Lisa,” it also deals with versions of other Leonardo compositions.
Prado curator Ana Gonzáles Mozo comments in her catalog essay that “some specialists consider that there was a prototype now lost (of Leonardo’s” Salvator Mundi “) while others think that Cook’s much-debated version is the original.” However, he suggests that “there is no painted prototype” of Leonardo.
The Prado Museum in Spain has lowered the category of the so-called Gulf “Salvator Mundi” in its exhibition catalog to “Leonado and the copy of the Mona Lisa”. Credit: Alamy
Mozo proposes that another copy of “Salvator Mundi”, the so-called version of Ganay (1505-15), is the closest to Leonardo’s lost original. Acquired by Hubert, Marquis de Ganay in 1939, it was sold at Sotheby’s in 1999 and is now in an anonymous private collection. Mozo maintains that the skilled studio artist who painted the Ganay “Salvator Mundi” was also responsible for the Prado’s first copy of the “Mona Lisa” (1507-16). Although the catalog includes a full-page image of the Ganay “Salvator Mundi”, Cook’s version is not even illustrated.
The opening essay for the Prado catalog is by Vincent Delieuvin, curator of the 2019 Musée du Louvre’s historic Leonardo retrospective. He discusses the various views on the Gulf “Salvator Mundi” without giving much of his own opinion, though he does refer to “surprisingly poor quality details”. Waiter presumably would have consulted closely with Delieuvin, who is a key contributor to the current Prado exhibition.
Last month Delieuvin gave an webinar for the Courtauld Institute in London on the challenges of organizing the 2019 fair. He was asked why the Gulf version of the “Salvator Mundi” had not been included along with Ganay’s image. , which was hung in the Louvre show. Delieuvin said the Gulf version had been requested, but that after “a long discussion” it was not offered.
Delieuvin spoke without enthusiasm about the gulf “Salvator Mundi”, saying that although “it is an interesting painting, it is not the most personal composition of Leonardo”. The Louvre curator said at Courtauld’s seminar that “it would have been nice to have it (the Gulf painting) close to Ganay’s pretty version, which is a high-level workshop version.” Ganay’s image is also included in the current exhibition at the Prado.
In the Prado catalog, Delieuvin concludes del Golfo “Salvator Mundi”: “It is to be hoped that a future permanent exhibition of the work will allow it to be analyzed again with greater objectivity”.
Top Image: “Salvator Mundi” by Leonardo da Vinci on display at Christie’s in London.