Visual Arts

The DMA Could Have Had a Bargain on the Most Expensive Piece of Art Ever Sold

Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi,' which just sold at auction for $450 million, once spent eight months in a storage room in Dallas.

Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi.

Remember that Leonardo da Vinci painting from last month, the one the DMA unsuccessfully tried to buy in 2012, which found itself five years later up for auction at Christie’s New York? The consensus among art heads then seemed to be that Salvator Mundi would fetch something like $100 million, a pretty jaw-dropping sum, even for the only remaining privately held work by the Renaissance’s greatest painter.

Well, scratch that. The da Vinci painting went to an unnamed bidder yesterday for $450 million. Five years ago, then-DMA director Maxwell Anderson was trying to empty about $125 million from the pockets of Texas billionaires to buy the piece for the museum. As Michael Granberry points out in the Dallas Morning News, that’s a 260 percent difference. So yes, the most expensive piece of art ever sold once spent eight months in a storage room at the DMA, where it was viewed by museum staff, donors, and assorted rich people.

And then it got away.


  • Just me or does Jesus have a super thick neck?

  • mrEmannE

    The real difference is that between five years ago and now, they found someone with some art cred who will swear up and down that “Hell yeah, this here’s an authentic gen-u-wine Leo!” That’s something Max couldn’t, or wouldn’t do.

  • Also, as I look at him more, I wonder where Jesus’ collarbones are. Wasn’t Leo a master of anatomy?

  • Rachel L.

    Your arts editor work at the Fort Worth Modern. Did they ever have a chance to buy this piece? Or have they declined to buy anything of note? Super interesting!

    • Lyndsay Knecht

      Hi, Rachel – I work as a contract educator at The Modern at most twice a year, and The Modern wouldn’t have been interested in this piece as it was made centuries before World War II.