What a digital restoration of the most expensive painting ever sold tells us about beauty, authenticity, and the fragility of existence

David Stromberg in The American Scholar:

I got the call late on a summer afternoon. Yanai Segal, an artist I’ve known for years, asked me whether I’d heard of the Salvator Mundi—the painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci that was lost for more than two centuries before resurfacing in New Orleans in 2005. I told him that I’d heard something of the story but that I didn’t remember the details. He had recently undertaken a project related to the painting, he said, and wanted to tell me about it. I was eager to hear more, but first I needed to remind myself of the basic facts. We agreed to speak again soon.

As I refreshed my memory in the following days, I learned that although there was considerable controversy about the history and legitimacy of the painting, there was some general consensus, too. The Salvator Mundi—“Savior of the World”—was most likely completed at the turn of the 16th century. An oil painting rendered on a walnut panel, it depicts Jesus offering a blessing with his right hand while holding an orb that represents Earth with his left.

More here.