I see Paul Giamatti playing Alexander Parish, the self-proclaimed art dealer and “sleeper hunter” who searches for underrated finds at estate sales and auctions. He finds the “Salvator Mundi” at an auction in New Orleans and buys it for only $ 1,175. It is in very poor condition, but he thinks it could be an original by one of the many artists who lived in da Vinci’s orbit and copied his work, which would still be worth the money. . He brings it to a friend, and as they assess him more and more they suspect that he can to be one of Vinci.
The film is entertaining and surprisingly moving, mixing images of free solo climber Marc-André Leclerc scaling impossible heights with a psychological exploration of what draws people into such dangerous situations again and again.
They bring it to a restorer, Dianne Modestini, who lovingly restores the painting to its former glory after centuries of neglect. But this is where one of the many controversies surrounding painting lies. Modestini worked so hard on it that some wondered if she crossed the line between restoring and recreating.
From there, Koefoed follows the painting’s journey across the world, from Russian oligarchs to Saudi princes, whose value has skyrocketed to $ 450 million. There is a fascinating subplot involving an enigmatic Swiss banker, Yves Bouvier, and his role in raising the price of painting and pocketing it from him. (I imagine Christoph Waltz playing it.)
Are these buyers and sellers all art lovers? Barely. The Russian tycoon tries to hide his strengths by sinking them into the paint; the Saudi prince is trying to buy respectability with the western world. These questions of authenticity cloud the painting every step of the way. But the painting is ultimately worth whatever anyone is willing to pay for it.