Tribeca Film Festival: “The Lost Leonardo” Review

90 minutes | USA | 2021

Director: Andreas Koefoed
Editor: Nicolás Nørgaard Staffolani
Cinematographer: Adam Jandrup
Composer: Sveinung Nygaard
Producers: Andreas Dalsgaard, Christoph Jörg
Writers: Duska Zagorac, Mark Monroe, Andreas Dalsgaard, Christian Kirk Muff, Andreas Koefoed
Cast: Dianne Modestini, Yves Bouvier, Robert Simon, Alexander Parish, Warren Adelson, Luke Syson, Martin Kemp, Frank Zöllner, Maria Teresa Fiorio, Jacques Franck, Evan Beard, Kenny Schachter, Jerry Saltz, Robert K Wittman, Alexandra Bregman, Georgina Adam, Alison Cole

The Lost Leonardo is a documentary that traces the discovery of the lost Salvator Mundi painting assumedly by Leonardo da Vinci. The documentary interviews art professionals who make an attempt to convince us that it’s a da Vinci work that appeared from out of the blue.

Dianne Modestini worked on restoring the painting that was initially purchased for $1,175 in 2005. She talks about how the painting contains a pentiment, a layer underneath that shows that the thumb was initially in a different position. When discussing the value, the detractors will talk about how some passages were damaged and overpainted. Modestini had an interest in the sale, which was a definite conflict of interest in her evaluating the work.

If the painting is authentic, it’d be a “trophy to end all trophies” according to art writer Alexandra Bregman. The film makes a case for the art world pushing forward the narrative that Salvator Mundi was an actual work of da Vinci without sufficient evidence, because “every academic wants to make a discovery” according to Evan Beard who is the Global Art Services Executive at Bank of America. Money was also a driving factor for the sellers and auction house.

There is a copy of the catalog from the original Louisiana auction in 2005 where Salvator Mundi is spelled “Salvador” Mundi. The documentary makes a case for the auction house not knowing the value of the painting. It makes sense that if they didn’t bother to list the painting’s title correctly, they also wouldn’t have properly researched the painting to find its true value.

The documentary partially suffers from cross-cutting between subjects before we know who they are. Otherwise, it’s a very entertaining documentary that gives us plenty of proof while still leaving room for doubt. 

Rating: 8/10

Spotlight Documentary: World Premiere
A Sony Pictures Classics Release
Will open in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on August 13, 2021, followed by a national release.

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