Photo credit: Droga 5 with permissions
As you’ve probably heard by now, Salvator Mundi the so-called “last DaVinci” sold at auction at Christie’s yesterday for $450.3 million dollars. This is the highest price ever paid for a painting.
The fact that this price was paid for a painting, not a company, is poignant. A company has products, people, assets, all of which can be placed on a ledger sheet. A painting is a square of fabric with pigment attached.
Let’s leave that alone for a moment.
By any measure (including his current resale value) Leonardo DaVinci is a brand. A singular genius of the Renaissance, DaVinci created flying machines, war armaments and painted the “Mona Lisa.”
Even posthumously, DaVinci has a brand community that has remained so passionate about his success, they sustain it themselves. These days, the mission is to create a thriving, resonant—and committed—community that drives your brand, and nowhere is that more apparent than for the brand called Leonardo DaVinci.
DaVinci’s reputation has been upheld through the centuries by scholars, connoisseurs, art critics and auction houses. But a brand is not just about drolling experts, it’s about the people. Over 6 million art lovers visit The Louvre each year to see DaVinci’s other painting, the Mona Lisa. His notebooks and drawings have been sold in the millions and many of his most famous drawings (like Vitruvian Man) have been rendered into proletarian icons including gift cards.
In a world seemingly driven by comic book art, Banksy and postfunk conceptualism, like it or not, DaVinci is, was, and remains a powerful beacon brand.
DaVinci even has his own advertising agency.
New York Agency of the Year Droga5 recently produced a brilliant film in anticipation of the Christie’s auction. The film captures the emotional reactions of visitors—including cameo appearances by Patti Smith and Leonardo da Caprio—using hidden camera footage. With a stroke of brilliance, the reverse angle images created by world-renowned portrait photographer Nadav Kander never reveal the painting itself, and only engage us with provocative human emotions.
No one would not want to own such a work of art.
The marketing effort can be viewed on YouTube and simultaneously engages an Instagram social campaign via @thelastdavinci that should help keep DaVinci relevant and resonant for at least this margin of the 21st century.
Before you go, here’s the Antiques Roadshow moment: According to Wikipedia, British collector, Francis Cook owned the painting in 1900. Cook’s descendants sold the “Salvator Mundi” at auction in 1958 for a whopping £45.