Back in June I saw The Lost Leonardo at AFIDOCS and described it as a great art thriller documentary. I remember when the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the world) painting was front page news and shook up the art world. But the story here begins when an art dealer finds a painting at a small New Orleans auction house and purchases it for $1175. He takes it to a respected art restorer who removes years of over-painting and comes to believe that it is in fact an undiscovered work by the master Leonardo da Vinci.  It goes on to become the most expensive ($450 million) painting ever sold.  And what the twisty documentary does is take the audience behind the scenes as the authenticity of the painting is questioned and then obscured. The cast of characters involved in its journey upward are politicians, art dealers, a Russian oligarch, even Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the question of whether its provenance even matters becomes the big question. It’s a fascinating look inside the hidden art world where owning a piece has nothing to do with its aesthetics and more to do with its perceived worth.

And now another film on the same subject is coming out. Savior for Sale: Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece? covers much of the same ground. It even interviews many of the same experts. Sure there are a few that The Lost Leonardo did not speak with and others that Savior for Sale skipped, but all in all it’s the same movie. It is a fascinating story and some of the experts come off as less than ethical. The go between who sold it to the Russian oligarch is much sleazier in The Lost Leonardo. And the role of the art restorer is glossed over in Savior for Sale. It seemed to me that The Lost Leonardo was more thriller-ish, but that could just be because it’s the one I saw first. Both of them are well done. And it’s a great story. So choose one and see it. Your choice.

The Lost Leonardo is in theaters now. Savior for Sale will be streaming on all the major platforms beginning Sept. 17th. 


[Mainstream Chick’s quick take: I also watched both docs, mostly to ponder how two films on the exact same topic could co-exist (or survive at all) with similar release dates. I still don’t know! ‘The Lost Leonardo’ is the more intriguing film – constructed in a more art/crime thriller sort of way; but ‘Savior for Sale’ is shot better and feels more recent, with references to the whole real news/fake news nonsense. Having watched Lost Leonardo first, Savior played out like a French remake of the same documentary. No matter how you slice it (or paint it), it’s weird to see the same people offer up the same details– and some different ones. As Arty Chick said, you can pick one. Or, you can watch both for the sheer adventure of picking apart the differences. It’s like dissecting the Salvator Mundi painting itself, looking for signs of authenticity and fraud. -hb]





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