The Italian master’s painting of Jesus went for four times its estimate after a furious 20-minute telephone bidding war in New York.
It is now the most expensive art work ever sold following its sale in the Big Apple overnight – but some experts still think the buyer could have been diddled.
A mystery bidder coughed up more than a third of a billion pounds to win the ‘Salvator Mundi’ – which for years had been dismissed as the work of one of Da Vinci’s students.
The image spent most of its life in London after being painted in 1506, being owned by King Charles II before eventually ending up in the hands of art collector Sir Francis Cook.
It was sold by London’s Sotheby’s auction house in 1958 for less than fifty quid because experts refused to believe Da Vinci painted it.
But after being examined by experts 15 years ago, it was agreed the Venetian genius had created the work – named Saviour of the World in English.
It gradually changed hands, being sold for £7,500, £58 million and then £97 million after being bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in 2013.
Christie’s, which sold the work, earned £38million for its role in the sale.
It overtakes Willem de Kooning’s Interchange – which sold for £228million in 2015 – as the most expensive artwork in history.
It labelled the work as “the greatest artistic rediscovery of the 20th century”.
Yet even now some art critics are convinced it was not painted by polymath Da Vinci.
Jenny Shaltz told Vulture.com: “Any private collector who gets suckered into buying this picture and places it in their apartment or storage, it serves them right.”