author and art historian ben lewis creates an NFT out of a reimagined version of leonardo da vinci’s salvator mundi. the move marks a continued review of the exploitative injustices of the art market, harkening back to his 2019 publication ‘the last leonardo,’ which tracks the journey of what has become the most expensive painting ever to be sold at auction. when the portrait was discovered in 2005 at a small auction house in new orleans — in poor condition and heavily overpainted — it was sold by basil hendry for just $1,175 to dealers robert simon and alex parish. after a painstaking restoration and authentication, the pair sold it for $80 million, after which it was immediately resold for $127.5 million. in late 2017, leonardo’s salvator mundi it had made its way to christies where it was auctioned for $450 million — 571,000 times what its owners in louisiana received twelve years prior.


now ben lewis introduces his ‘salvator metaversi’ as an NFT which he is currently selling — splitting any profit with the hendry family.

leonardo da vinci's salvator mundi sees a digital transformation and is selling as an NFT
salvator metaversi NFT | image courtesy of ben lewis



ben lewis hopes that his crypto leonardo ‘salvator metaversi’ will likewise sell for $450 million, although he’s not really expecting it. like the publication of his book, the reimagined salvator mundi NFT is not necessarily intended to make money. rather, the work seeks to draw attention to the exploitative machinations of dealers and the victims which the art market often leaves in its wake. lewis tells artnet news: ‘it’s just not fair. the dealers — robert simon, alex parish, dmitry rybolovlev — they all made tens of millions. it would be great if they sent a bit of money down to this family. and I thought, to bring out that point, I’d turn this into an NFT.’




playing off leonardo’s salvator mundi, ben lewis dubs his NFT artwork ‘salvator metaversi’ in celebration of the alternative digital reality of the metaverse. while it presents as a near replica of the original, the subject grips a stack of $100 bills in his left hand in place of the familiar glass orb. the work was minted on the online NFT platform opensea on april 1st, and is currently bidding for 0.23 etherium (worth $482 at the time of this article). the portrait will auction through easter weekend before ending on april 6th.