A rare painting by Salai, a close collaborator of Vinci, awarded 1.7 million euros

“La Madeleine penitente”, a painting by Salaì, Leonardo De Vinci’s closest collaborator, was auctioned on Wednesday at 1.7 million euros (including costs), announced the Artcurial auction house in Paris.

This oil is one of the rare works recognized as being by the hand of this painter imbued as closely as possible with Leonardo’s technique, particularly in the treatment of the hands and the face.

At the end of very lively auctions by telephone, the picture soared to 1,745,000 euros while it had been estimated between 100,000 and 150,000 euros. The sale took place behind closed doors due to the lockdown.

“This painting really comes out of the night. Its owner, who bought it for a modest sum, entrusted it to us for sale. It arrived to us without attribution. It is (the expert) Cristina Geddo, who , who came from Milan, revealed to us that it was from Salai, “Eric Turquin told AFP.

“We found fingerprints: the painter crushed his thumb on the fresh paint, which is characteristic of the technique of Leonardo and Salai”, added the expert.

Only four or five authenticated paintings of Salai are known, including “Christ the Redeemer” kept in Milan, the others being in private hands.

65 cm by 50 cm, the painting on wood panel needs to be cleaned, the varnish which partially covers it being dirty and oxidized.

Marie-Madeleine is represented there on a black background, her eyes raised in ecstasy, her arms crossed. The naked, slender body is partially covered by abundant golden-brown hair: a characteristic that can be found in the painting in Milan.

Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salaì (1480-1524), was Leonardo’s closest companion – his pupil, workshop boy, model, treasurer, agent, lover. The Renaissance master would have given him the nickname “Salai” – a synonym for “little devil” – because of his nonsense, petty theft, lies.

For more than 25 years, Salaì has been able to assimilate the technique of the master, positioning himself – in addition to his few personal works – as one of the most influential promoters of Leonardo’s models through copies and variants of Leonardo’s masterpieces. .


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