Film & TV

Film Review: The Lost Leonardo

A fascinating documentary about the unregulated and nefarious international art world: and a Da Vinci painting bought for the price of a washing machine!

It’s said that after drugs and prostitution, art is the most unregulated market in the world. The Lost Léonardo is an eye-opening look into the seediness and greed of the Art World, using an unprecedented find as it’s vehicle: the first Da Vinci painting to be discovered in over a century.

Nearly five hundred years after Léonardo da Vinci’s death, a man is rummaging through a stock of paintings in a New Orleans auction house, searching for a great work of art that might have gone undetected. He’s called a sleeper hunter, and he’s just made the discovery of a lifetime. After paying $1175, the man is so convinced the work is of the Renaissance period he sends it to the country’s best-known restoration artist who, after dissolving the restorative touch-ups from the last few centuries, thinks she’s staring at a Da Vinci. This is the opening sequence to Andreas Koefoed’s documentary The Lost Léonardo. Part I, the painting’s journey from authentication – however dodgy and inconclusive it may have been – to exhibition at the Tate, is called ‘The Art Game’. Part II, when the private buyers begin circling, has the obscenely appropriate title: ‘The Money Game’.

If you know nothing about the art industry The Lost Léonardo will teach you that fine art is more than truth; it’s monetary collateral. From an art dealer swindling a Russian mafioso, to an advertising campaign showing people in a state of near transcendence – Leonardo di Caprio included – while viewing the Salvator Mundi (aka ‘The male Mona Lisa’ or ‘The Last Léonardo’), to a final sale of $450,000,000, this is art as beauty, mystery and lies, art as commodity and even as international diplomacy. It’s one of those truth-is-so-much-stranger-than-fiction documentaries, where just when you think you’ve reached the apex of unbelievability, the next talking head brings you to a new level. An edge-of-seat cultural experience full of shock and intrigue, this classy and gritty documentary begs the question: what would Da Vinci have made of all this fuss?

Reviewed by Heather Taylor-Johnson

The Lost Leonardo opens on December 2nd

Stranger than fiction 5 stars

[adrotate banner="159"]
To Top