After years of painstaking research, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna claims that its “Salvator Mundi” could be a real Titian
The academics of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, one of the works in the museum, a representation of Christ holding a globe circa 1520-1530, is probably by the great Italian Renaissance artist Titian.
Experts have spent several years carefully examining the work, which was previously attributed to the artist’s studio, and now presents it as the “Viennese Salvator Mundi” in reference to the controversial work. Leonardo DeVinci panel depicting the same scene.
In one of the art world’s most infamous tales of rediscovery, two art dealers bought this image for just $1,500 in 2005. The heavily damaged painting was later reassigned as a Leonardo signature and s sold for a record $450 million.
Now the Kunsthistorisches has its own Salvator Mundi discovery story.
Already housing the second largest collection of Titians in the world, after only the Prado in Madrid, the museum took a closer look Christ with the globe as part of a larger research project on his Titian fonds, subjecting each work by the artist to X-ray and infrared imaging.
The museum presented its findings to “POV 25part of the Image Gallery research series, launched in 2012.
Titian put his own spin on the traditional Salvator Mundi subject, which typically shows Christ raising a hand in a gesture of blessing, by including a Hebrew inscription on Jesus’ tunic referencing Kabbalah, suggesting the work was commissioned for a Christian patron with Jewish leanings. Such personalization makes the work of Titian himself more likely.
But what tipped off experts that the work had been wrongly downgraded were X-rays that revealed an under-painting of the Madonna and Child.
This image closely resembled Titian’s early works depicting the same subject, suggesting that Christ with the globe could be from the 1520s, rather than 1530 as previously dated.
Although it is in much better condition than Leonardo’s Salvator MundiVienna’s image needs significant conservation.
Part of the painting has been retouched over the years; some colors have darkened with age; and the surface has been flattened and damaged by being pressed in previous conservation work. X-rays also show areas of paint loss on the nose and hair.
The hope is that a full restoration will confirm the new attribution to Titian once and for all. The museum is now crowdfunding to raise funds for this project.
“Question of opinion #25: The Viennese Salvator Mundi – Titian’s Christ with the globe in a new lightis on display at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Maria-Theresien-Platz, 1010 Vienna, Austria, from February 25 to October 16, 2022.
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