A rediscovered Leonardo Da Vinci painting is set to auction for an estimated $100 million on Nov. 15, but there's something unusual about this piece that is making some wonder whether the painting is a genuine Da Vinci.
The image, called the Salvator Mundi ("Savior of the World" in English), shows Jesus Christ decked out in regal blue and gold Renaissance apparel and holding an orb in his left hand while giving a blessing with his right, notes The Guardian.
Historians believe that Da Vinci painted the religious image in approximately the year 1500, around the same time as the Mona Lisa, notes CNN. Experts certified the privately owned painting, which sold for just $60 in 1958, as authentic just six years ago.
"The 'Salvator Mundi' is the Holy Grail of Old Master paintings," said Alan Wintermute of Christie's, according to CNN. "Long known to have existed, and long sought after, it seemed just a tantalizingly, unobtainable dream until now."
But there's something uncharacteristic about the portrait that's giving keen-eyed art enthusiasts pause. Do you see it?
The scientist, inventor and artist's work has delighted and puzzled enthusiasts for centuries. Da Vinci's art displays an impeccable understanding of the physical world, usually down to the smallest details of anatomy, light and shadows.
So, then, why does the orb in Jesus' hand suggest otherwise?
"Leonardo failed to paint the distortion that would occur when looking through a solid clear orb at objects that are not touching the orb," scholar Walter Isaacson wrote in "Leonardo da Vinci: the Biography," according to The Guardian. "Solid glass or crystal, whether shaped like an orb or a lens, produces magnified, inverted, and reversed images. Instead, Leonardo painted the orb as if it were a hollow glass bubble that does not refract or distort the light passing through it."
Isaacson went on to note that Da Vinci was "deep into his optics studies, and how light reflects and refracts was an obsession" when he painted the image, which he says is otherwise "rendered with beautiful scientific precision." As such, the author reasoned that the orb's appearance was likely a stylistic choice, either to maintain the painting's clarity or to "impart a miraculous quality to Christ and his orb."
Others have pointed to the uncharacteristically close-cropped framing and the lack of body angles along with the orb as evidence that it isn't an original but is perhaps the work of a student or enthusiast. Isaacson has said he considers that to be a possibility, but still considers the work to be that of Da Vinci.
"If he had recreated the image with optical exactitude, the background would have been distorted," said a Christie's spokesperson. "It is our opinion that he chose not to portray it in this way because it would be too distracting to the subject of the painting."
For now, it remains yet another of the many mysteries surrounding the legendary innovator.
Sources: The Guardian, CNN / Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Christie's via CNN, RMN-Grand Palais (musee du Louvre) / Michel Urtado