A «Penitent Magdalene», by Salaì, the closest collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci, was auctioned yesterday for 1.7 million euros in the auction house Artcurial of Paris. This oil is one of the rare works recognized by the painter’s hand, very close to the master’s technique, especially in the treatment of hands and face. The price of the painting shot up to 1,745,000 euros, while his estimate was between 100,000 and 150,000 euros, reports Afp. «This painting, which its owner bought for a modest sum, entrusted it to us for sale. It came without attribution. Cristina Geddo revealed to us that she was from Salai, “Eric Turquin told Afp. «We found fingerprints: the painter pressed his thumb on the fresh paint, which is characteristic of the Leonardo and Salai technique, ”added the expert. There is only evidence of four or five authentic paintings by Salai, including the “Christ the Redeemer”, preserved in Milan, the rest are in private hands.
Measuring 65 by 50 centimeters, this oil on panel is dirty and with oxidized varnishes. It represents Mary Magdalene on a black background, with her eyes raised in ecstasy and arms folded. The slender, nude body is partially covered by golden brown hair.
Gian Giacomo Caprotti, conocido como Salai (1480-1524), was a student, apprentice, model, treasurer, agent and, some say, lover. Painter of androgynous angels, Leonardo was homosexual, like Botticelli, Donatello, Cellini or Michelangelo. Although he carried it with much less torment than the latter. Leonardo was accused of sodomy with Jacobo Saltarelli, 17 years old. He had at his service many young people, such as Atalante Migliorotti, a musician, or Gian Giacomo Caprotti, nicknamed Salai (little devil), a 10-year-old petty thief whom the teacher took a fancy to and lived with for most of his life. It was surely her lover.
At 55, Leonardo met Francesco Melzi, 14 years old and son of a nobleman. Leonardo adopted him: he was for him a father and his teacher. Melzi became his personal secretary and one of his assistants in the workshop. He appointed him executor and received most of the inheritance, because of which Leonardo had bitter disputes and lawsuits with his eleven half-brothers.