It's hard to review this documentary without simply synopsizing it, for it is a straightforward if well-told account of the Salvator Mundi, a portrait of Christ unearthed in 2005, hastily attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci, and sold at auction in 2017 for a record-smashing $450 million.
Did Leonardo really paint this Salvator Mundi? If he did, has it been so much restored that it no longer counts as an original work? And where is it now, anyway? None of these questions will be answered in the film, but all will be fully explored.
If you know very little about the Salvator Mundi debate, The Lost Leonardo will lay it all out for you. If, like me, you are already familiar with the key points in the story – the sellers who shadily boosted the price, the experts who verified the work all too quickly, the enduring controversy over the painting's authorship – the film contains no bombshell surprises or radical theories. Still, it's a good yarn, and it's interesting that director Koefoed would settle on Dianne Modestini, the woman who actually did the restoration work, as his de facto protagonist: she appears to be the only person on earth who unequivocally believes the painting to be a Leonardo original – and since nobody spent so much time with it as she did, her viewpoint is significant. Yet her fight to prove the painting's authenticity is an oddly lonely one, nearly irrelevant in an art world that has become entirely focused on profit and self-promotion and cares little about history or beauty.