Tribeca Film Festival 2021: The Lost Leonardo

Year: 2021
Runtime: 97 minutes
Director: Andreas Koefoed

By Joan Amenn

In 2017 on the auction floor of Christies, a mysterious painting was sold for the record amount of over four hundred million dollars. What kind of art could possibly command so much money? This is a riveting documentary about a lost painting, the machinations of the art community and how the extremely wealthy acquire and sometimes hide, the masterpieces of the world.

If this wasn’t real life, it would be a fair criticism to say that director Andreas Koefoed had adapted the film from a Dan Brown thriller. The large cast and twisting narrative are handled with great skill so that the audience never gets lost. And there are some amazing plot twists. At times the films seems like a modern retelling of “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) with the dreams of so many people aflame by what they believe to be a lost work by Leonardo da Vinci. The key word here is “believe” because there is definitely room for doubt as to the painting’s authenticity.

Koefoed helpfully organizes the film into chapters so that the audience gets to see the whole saga unfold from different vantage points. There is the art world’s reaction to the painting, the financial world’s view on an international scale, and finally the political repercussions of that astonishing auction at Christie’s. The discovery of this painting was truly a worldwide event that reverberated across many cultures, countries and social classes. But the inevitable question remains, was it really done by the Renaissance Master?

The film seems to suggest that the point is now moot since it is in the hands of someone who sees it as a financial asset, not art. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly referred to as MBS, purchased the painting which is now hidden somewhere in his possession. There was a possibility that he would loan the work to the Louvre in honor of the 500th year anniversary of da Vinci’s death in 2019. The intrigue around those arrangements and why the painting was ultimately not included in the exhibition is enough for another documentary besides this one. It is a very telling fact that the museum wanted to examine the painting before displaying it but the results of their analysis have never been revealed. There was even a book prepared in the hopes that the painting would be granted on loan but all copies were destroyed when this did not happen. What could have been printed in regard to the painting that would warrant their censorship? Would the potential disapproval of MBS have had anything to do with it? We do not get any answers but it is a thrilling ride anyway. If you enjoy political intrigue or just are an art lover, then “The Lost Leonardo” will have you on the edge of your seat.


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