There’s talk of this being another Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) episode, in which a painting attributed to Leonardo sold for $450 million, making it the most expensive artwork to be sold publicly. Despite the record price, Salvator Mundi was pulled from the Louvre’s upcoming Leonardo blockbuster amid questions about its authenticity.
The small sculpture’s provenance is certainly atypical. The mold from which the sculpture was cast was owned by a real estate developer named Richard Lewis for 30 years; Lewis received it as collateral for a loan that was never repaid. Lewis’s wife told Bloomberg that the mold primarily remained in a closet in their home, but that Lewis was known to take it out at dinner parties to show guests. Amidst the 2008 financial crisis, the couple was forced to file for bankruptcy, at which point Lewis formed “Leonardo da Vinci Equestrian LLC” before taking the mold to a foundry in Burbank, California, where the bronze being offered by Guernsey’s, along with a further edition of Horse and Rider in four different patinas, were cast.
Las Vegas-based gallerist Rod Maly noted that at least 70 casts were made and sold, which may prove counterintuitive to the auction house’s use of the word “unique” to describe the work. The estimates were set by Rod Maly’s son Brett Maly, who is the resident art appraiser on the television show Pawn Stars. Horse and Rider will be auctioned off without a reserve, meaning it can sell at any price, and the lot will also include the latex mold from which it was cast.