'Salvator Mundi' at heart of art fraud case?

March 11 2015

Image of 'Salvator Mundi' at heart of art fraud case?

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art/Tim Nighswander

I learn via Marion Maneker's Art Market Monitor that the newly discovered Leonardo 'Salvator Mundi' (above) is at the centre of an art fraud case that is causing consternation among the contemporary set.

Pepper everything you read here with the word 'allegedly', but the story is this: Yves Bouvier (who runs and owns a series of 'freeports' around the world where art can be stored without incurring various taxes) has been accussed of fraud by the Russian collector Dmitri Rybolovlev; M. Bouvier was apparently meant to be buying works for Mr. Rybolovlev for a fixed 2% commission; but Mr Rybolovlev was none too pleased to discover that he had apparently been paying far more for some pictures than he had been led to believe was necessary.

One of the pictures in question is the Salvator Mundi. Le Temps in Switzerland reports that Mr Rybolovlev paid $127.5m, but read elsewhere that the painting had been sold through Sotheby's private treaty department in New York for '$75m-$80m'.

Until now, there has been no confirmation about Salvator Mundi buyer's identity.* It's great to know, amidst all the hand-wringing about the dying Old Master market (as most recently discussed here in The Art Newspaper), that Russian oligarchs are buying Leonardos... 

* boast: AHN was the first to report that the painting had been sold.

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