Book Review: The Last Leonardo by Ben Lewis

July 10, 2019

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis is a non-fiction book about Leonardo da Vinci’s small oil painting the Salvator Mundi, sold at auction for $450 million. Mr. Lewis in an author, documentary filmmaker and an art critic.

  • 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1984819259

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My rating for The Last Leonardo – 5
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This book popped up on my reading radar  a day or two after the famous Sotheby’s auction where the painting the Salvator Mundi, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci sold for a record amount of $450 million. Frankly, I don’t see it – but what do I know.

The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis goes to tell about the world of obscene art prices that is invisible to a layman like myself. The fine art culture, where works are used for joy, investments, risk, park money, or bragging rights.

Mr. Lewis raises questions about the backstory and authenticity of the painting, while informing the reader about its historical status. At the crux of the matter is whether or not the painting is actually by the famous Renaissance master, or by someone in his shop. Experts must gather evidence, use detective skills, and their in depth knowledge of art, art history, and painting personality of the artist involved. There is, of course, the matter of an unknown variable which many art experts believe distinguish them from the rest , they can simply “tell” if a masterpiece can be attributed to a certain master.

But rest assured, it gets much more complicated, as the author states “attributions to Leonardo can be driven by personal connections, professional networks and rivalries, academic ambitions, and financial interests”. While not surprising, it’s mind blowing that this type of pettiness (for lack of a better word) plays a part in such an analysis that could make an object’s value move in the millions of dollars.

This book is well written, expertly researched, and very informative. As I mentioned, I’m not much an a fine art connoisseur, but the narrative held my interest from beginning to end.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I got this book for free.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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