Leonardo Da Vinci portrait of Christ sells for record $450.3 million in New York

NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Christ, "Salvator Mundi," sold for a record-smashing $450.3 million on Wednesday at Christie's, more than double the old price for any work of art at auction.

The painting, only recently rediscovered, was the last da Vinci left in private hands and fetched more than four times Christie's' pre-sale estimate of about $100 million.

It beat a record set in May 2015 by Pablo Picasso's "Les Femmes D'Alger," which sold for $179.4 million, and constituted more than half the sale's total of $785.9 million, which came in well above the roughly $450 million pre-sale estimate.

Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Christ

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Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of Christ
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
"Salvator Mundi," an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, the last privately owned Leonardo da Vinci painting, is on display for media at Christie's auction in New York, NY, U.S., October 10, 2017. Courtesy Christie?s New York/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Co-Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art New York Loic Gouzer (C) speaks as Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
"Salvator Mundi," an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, the last privately owned Leonardo da Vinci painting, is on display for the media at Christie's auction in New York, NY, U.S., October 10, 2017. Courtesy Christie?s New York/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
"Salvator Mundi," an ethereal portrait of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, the last privately owned Leonardo da Vinci painting, is on display for the media at Christie's auction in New York, NY, U.S., October 10, 2017. Courtesy Christie?s New York/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' (pictured) with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
A journalist takes photos of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' after it was unveiled at Christie's in New York on October 10, 2017. One of fewer than twenty painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in private hands, the Salvator Mundi will be offered in Christie's Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017, in New York, with an estimation in the region of 100 million US dollars. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A security personnel stands next to Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' after it was unveiled at Christie's in New York on October 10, 2017. One of fewer than twenty painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in private hands, the Salvator Mundi will be offered in Christie's Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017, in New York, with an estimation in the region of 100 million US dollars. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Security personnel stand next to Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' after it was unveiled at Christie's in New York on October 10, 2017. One of fewer than twenty painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in private hands, the Salvator Mundi will be offered in Christie's Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017, in New York, with an estimation in the region of 100 million US dollars. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A journalist takes photos of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' after it was unveiled at Christie's in New York on October 10, 2017. One of fewer than twenty painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in private hands, the Salvator Mundi will be offered in Christie's Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017, in New York, with an estimation in the region of 100 million US dollars. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
A security personnel stands next to Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' after it was unveiled at Christie's in New York on October 10, 2017. One of fewer than twenty painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the only one in private hands, the Salvator Mundi will be offered in Christie's Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art on November 15, 2017, in New York, with an estimation in the region of 100 million US dollars. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / =RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION= (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' (pictured) with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Rebecca Riegelhaupt speaks as Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Co-Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art New York Loic Gouzer (C) speaks as Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Christie's unveils Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' (pictured) with Andy Warhol's 'Sixty Last Suppers' at Christie's New York on October 10, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images for Christie's Auction House)
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"Salvator Mundi" (Savior of the World) was purchased by an unidentified buyer bidding via telephone after a protracted contest of nearly 20 minutes at the New York auction house.

With at least six bidders and increments coming in at more than 15 million, sustained whoops and cheers broke out in the packed salesroom as the hammer came down.

"It was a moment when all the stars were aligned, and I think Leonardo would be very pleased," Jussi Pylkkänen, global president of Christie's, told Reuters after the sale.

"It's a painting beyond anything I've ever handled," said Pylkkänen, the auctioneer, adding, "I should hang up my gavel."

The restored portrait, an ethereal depiction of Jesus Christ which dates to about 1500, is one of fewer than 20 paintings by the Renaissance artist known to still exist.

First recorded in the private collection of King Charles I, the work was auctioned in 1763 before vanishing until 1900, by which time Christ's face and hair had been painted over - once a "quite common" practice, according to Alan Wintermute, Christie's senior specialist for Old Master paintings.

Sold at Sotheby's to an American collector in 1958 for only 45 pounds, it again sold in 2005 as an overpainted copy of the masterwork.

The new owner started the restoration process, and after some six years of research it was authenticated as da Vinci's more than 500-year-old masterpiece, which culminated in a high-profile exhibition at London's National Gallery in 2011.

Christie's did not identify the seller, other than to say it was a European private collector who acquired the work after its rediscovery in 2005 and lengthy restoration.

Media identified him as Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who paid $127.5 million in 2013 in a private sale.

Auction highlights included Andy Warhol's "Sixty Last Suppers," a monumental work that fetched $60.9 million, exceeding the estimate.

Two Cy Twombly paintings also fared well, selling for $46.4 million and $27.3 million, both surpassing estimates. (Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Sandra Maler and Clarence Fernandez)

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