Digital restoration and recreation of the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
My digital restoration & recreation of the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci

I never shared the final image on my blog. I wanted to put up the video first, and then I moved across the country, with covid nipping at my heals, because it’s flourishing like mad in the SE Asian country I live in. And so, above, finally, you can see the final version (though I did find a couple areas I might edit]. You can also pick up a print.

Full-length, documentary video

This became an excessively ambitious project, but it started as a video I chose because I thought I could knock it out with relative ease. If you remember my first YouTube video on my new channel, it was about the rather grotesque anatomical anomalies in Goya’s infamous “Maja” painting:

I used this video to learn video editing software, and in the course of making the video, I also learned to use and animate arrows and other objects useful for directing the viewers eyes to sections of the painting. I chose the Salvator Mundi as my second video, simply because I could use the techniques I’d already learned in order to highlight all the grotesque anatomical mishaps with that painting. My plan backfired.

At one point, in order to better illustrate what is wrong with the physical restoration of the ostensible Leonardo da Vinci painting of the Salvator Mundi, I got the bright idea of digitally correcting the most egregious errors as a visual aid to hammer home my argument. I only intended to work on the face, but then got the idea to do a full-fledged recreation as a more convincing visual argument, and as a potential portfolio piece.

Still from my video in which I juxtapose my final version with the restored painting

I started with the cleaned state of the painting, before the restorer began her transformation of it into the unfortunate spectacle we see now. First I restored it as best I could, and then I tried to recreated what it might have looked more like.

You need to know that the main problem with the physical restoration is that it is presented as if it’s a fully restored painting to near its original state. It is anything but that. Most of it remains highly damaged, and merely preserved, but fudged to appear as if the painting reflects Leonardo’s original intent. It is even marketed that way, and the treatment of the eyes [which even the restorer admits were so damaged she couldn’t hope to fix them, so only made minimal changes] is claimed to be an unprecedented achievement in the history of western art. His cruelly tortured face is supposed to be “flawlessly beautiful”. In reality, it is the physical record of 500 years of damage, deterioration, worm-tunneling, overly harsh prior restorations, the remnants of comical attempts at over-painting, and the restorer’s final makeover.

Dianne Modestini has a reputation as a consummate restorer, however, there’s no evidence she’s a competent artist. A peculiar result of her working on this painting for a decade is that she’s managed to accentuate the distortions caused by physical damage, while adding in her own mistakes in recreating the original modeling, lighting, shading, perspective, and foreshortening.

I ended up making 3 videos about the Salvator Mundi. The first two are parts 1 &2, but the third is not part 3. Rather, it is a comprehensive, stand-alone, documentary-length analysis, in which my recreation of the painting is one of many custom graphics and animations I created for the video so one always has something visually engaging to look at.

The full length documentary video

And if you’d like a print, etc:

~ Ends

And if you like my art or criticism, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). See how it works here.

Or go directly to my account.


Or you can make a one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).


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