Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Book Review: 'The Last Leonardo' by Ben Lewis

✰✰✰✰ In 2017, a small oil painting attributed to the great master, Leonardo da Vinci, was sold at auction for the phenomenal price of $450 million. It is well known that only a handful of paintings by the great master survive today. So where did this painting come from? Where has it been hiding all these years? And who bought it?

Although many versions of the Salvator Mundi icon were painted by da Vinci's assistants, art historians have wondered if an original was produced by da Vinci himself? If so, could this be it? Art historian and critic Ben Lewis takes the reader along on his investigation into the discovery, history, and eventual sales of this extraordinary piece of art. With a lot of detective work, the author pieces together the spellbinding story of what may be one of the last surviving examples of great master's work.

The Bottom Line: The premise of The Last Leonardo is fascinating, and the twists and turns of this nonfiction book will keep you turning the pages. In the end it's up to you to decide whether or not the Salvator Mundi is truly a work by the great master himself or a product of one of his students. We might never know.

While suitable for both public and academic libraries, this book assumes some knowledge of art history. Beautiful, full color photos are included of the Salvator Mundi, other versions of the painting, and the people involved in the story. However, the author mentions many works of art besides the Salvator Mundi without including photographs. Thus, I found it necessary to search online for images of the other paintings mentioned in order to supplement the text. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating book which will appeal to academics as well as those interested in art history.

Details: The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World's Most Expensive Painting by Ben Lewis. Hardcover published by Ballantine Books in 2019. 384 p. ISBN: 978-1-9848-1925-3 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

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