Last week, Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Christ as Savior of the World, Salvator Mundi, was auctioned off at Christie’s for a whopping $450.3 million, surpassing all previous records for artworks purchased at auction or privately. It is a remarkable step for the Old Masters market and an historic event for us at Lowy. The frame that surrounds the masterpiece was provided by Lowy and selected from our extensive collection of antique frames.
As thousands of people flocked to pre-auction viewings to glimpse the painting and as the world tuned in to the live sale at Christie’s Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York, the Lowy team was watching with reverence and pride people’s awed reactions to the wonder that is a magnificent marriage of art and frame. Six years ago, when we selected the 16th century Italian frame for da Vinci’s painting, little did we know that our addition would help the artwork shatter auction records. You can read more about the story of our framing of what Christie’s called “the last da Vinci” on our blog.
The right frame can elevate a painting to perfection and increase its sale value. It is unusual, however, for auction houses to advertise the artworks they sell with frames. Christie’s decision to advertise Salvator Mundi with Lowy’s frame, including in the auction catalog, is a testimony to its deeming Lowy’s addition vital to enhancing the painting, both aesthetically and monetarily. We are grateful for this trust in Lowy’s expertise and taste. After all, there is never just one way to frame a painting. As with every project, our goals in framing Salvator Mundi were to amplify the spirit of the artwork, preserve its integrity, and honor the artist’s intent.
Lowy has dedicated itself to the preservation and presentation of art since our founding in 1907. We are often called upon to conserve works of art and frames from all periods and to match and fit celebrated artists’ creations with artisanal designs from our collection of over 5,000 frames that range from rare 16th century Renaissance through contemporary and modern models. We also make hand-carved reproduction frames in styles from every historical period and country of origin, and develop new custom frame designs. Over the years, we had the opportunities to frame works by the likes of Rembrandt, El Greco, van Gogh, Cézanne, Modigliani, Miró, Chagall, Léger, and many others. Treating rare masterpieces is what we do every day. Yet it is a special experience for us to help enhance a da Vinci aesthetically and play a role in its winding path to a $450 million record-breaking artwork.
Certainly it is a banner year for our president, Larry Shar, the second of three generations of Shars to own Lowy. At the age of 70, he framed his first da Vinci painting and scored his first “hole-in- one.” “My father would be very proud,” says Larry.
So let us raise a toast. Here’s to the magic of the frame and to the experienced, skilled, and learned artisans, carvers, conservators, framers, gilders, and restorers in whose able hands art is rediscovered and reinvented, and histories are brought to life.
Here are some other choices from the Lowy inventory that were considered for the framing of Salvator Mundi. The frame they chose is featured above. Which would be your choice? Let us know in the comments below.
Let Lowy’s experts and 110 years of experience help you elevate your painting with the perfect frame. Perhaps your “Leonardo,” too, will someday become worth half a billion dollars. For questions or to schedule a consultation, please contact us.