With a series of twists and turns similar to the television series “Fake or Fortune”, it has been revealed that the Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450 million dollars once graced the walls of both Greenwich Palace and the then Buckingham House, the latter which now displays part of Queen Elizabeth II’s collection of paintings. It is thought though there is no documentation to prove it that the picture was painted around the turn of the sixteenth century, by da Vinci for the then King of France – King Louis XII.
The first time that any documentary evidence has been found relating to the picture is some one hundred and fifty years later. When the assets of King Charles I of Great Britain were assessed and disposed of in 1649 during the Commonwealth period. The picture is described as being in the Queen’s bedchamber at Greenwich, King Charles’s wife was Henrietta Maria, a descendant of King Louis XII. It is therefore not inconceivable that the picture formed part of her dowry when they married in 1625.
When the monarchy was restored some ten years later, and King Charles II came to the throne all the royal assets were ordered to be restored to the monarchy and so the picture came back to King Charles and later his brother King James II. However, James died without a legitimate successor, and it is thought the picture passed to his illegitimate daughter Catherine as the picture later appeared in the collection of her husband, John Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham. In 1703, he constructed his new London residence Buckingham House; this did not become a palace and royal residence until the middle of the nineteenth century.
The picture at this time was still accepted as by Leonardo da Vinci, and it was sold as such by John Sheffield’s son in 1763. The picture then disappeared for another one hundred and fifty years before resurfacing at the beginning of the twentieth century. Age and a number of botched repair jobs to the picture had reduced the quality of the image, and for a long time, it was ascribed to a pupil of da Vinci as a copy of the original. However, after a painstaking six-year restoration project the true painter has once again been acknowledged, and it has become a record-breaking picture.