Review | Documentary unearths ‘The Lost Leonardo’

The Lost Leonardo | Dir: Andreas Koefoed | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

The story begins when Alexander Parish finds an interesting painting in New Orleans, which as everyone knows is a town in the USA. Parish is a ‘sleeper hunter’ – someone who buys works of art that could possibly be worth more than their advertised price. Called Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World), Parish and an art dealer buy the damaged and badly restored painting for $1,175 as they think it could have been painted by a student of Leonardo da Vinci.

When they take the painting to well-known art restorer Dianne Modestini to work on, she is convinced that the brushstrokes show it is an original by Leonardo da Vinci and experts are called in. Some agree and some doubt the authenticity, but that doesn’t stop the punters in the art world from claiming it is a long-lost Leonardo masterpiece and forcing the price up to being the most expensive painting ever sold in 2017.

Danish documentary maker Andreas Koefoed tracks down all the people involved in this extraordinary tale and the film unfolds like a fast-paced thriller. While there are still doubts about the painting’s authenticity, the world’s most esteemed art galleries, the world’s most prestigious auction houses and the world’s richest men want the world to believe it is the lost Leonardo.

This documentary maker travels the world to reveal that finding out the truth is secondary to the secretive dealings of those with power and money who want it to be true. He uncovers corruption, money laundering, tax dodging and the hunt for power that goes beyond anything we could imagine, and all this happens beneath the gloss of the art world.

You will hold your breath for the final auction at Christies Auction House and leave the cinema shaking your head that a portrait of Christ would be at the centre of all this greed, deception and corruption.

Lezly Herbert

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