Nina Doede, 65, a former financial manager based in New York, experienced the kind of heightened emotional reaction that psychologists have identified as Stendhal syndrome, or hyperkulturemia, an effect caused by aesthetic euphoria.
“Standing in front of that painting was a spiritual experience,” Ms. Doede said. “It was breathtaking. It brought tears to my eyes,” she added, as she left the sepulchral chamber where the painting is displayed.
Marc Sands, Christie’s chief marketing officer, said it was the auction house’s first-ever use of an outside agency to advertise an artwork. Sharp-eyed observers noticed that the typeface used for Droga5’s online campaign was remarkably similar to the one that promoted the 2006 movie, “The Da Vinci Code,” based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown. Mr. Sands said any similarity was “entirely coincidental.”
Scholars generally refer to a work by the artist as a “Leonardo,” but, as Mr. Sands explained, “da Vinci” has “much higher levels of recognition.”
The “Salvator Mundi” is being sold by the family trust of the Russian billionaire collector Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million and had never exhibited the work in public before now. The sense that this is rare opportunity to view a Leonardo was elevated in New York, where no museum collection contains a painting by the artist.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington possesses the only example in North America. The museum paid over $5 million in a private transaction in 1967 (roughly $36.4 million in today’s dollars) to secure “Ginevra de’ Benci,” a portrait from the 1470s. No other painting by the artist has appeared on the open market in the last 100 years.
“It’s the 16th Leonardo painting,” said Dianne Dwyer Modestini, based in New York, who restored the “Salvator Mundi.” The painting, showing Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left holding a crystal orb, was bought…