Picture: Salvator Mundi
In the documentary The Lost Leonardo, a New Orleans auction house sold a painting, ‘Salvator Mundi’, for $1,175 to Alexander Parish.
Parish is a sleeper hunter who recognizes unvalued painting by better artists that the auction house has not. A renowned art historian and restorer, Dianne Modestini, Parish, and his financial partner Robert Simon ascertained it to be a Leonardo. Despite the Leonardo Da Vinci experts Frank Zoller and Jacques Franck and art critics Jerry Saltz and Kenny Schachter questioning its authenticity as a Leonardo, the National Gallery, London exhibited the painting as a Leonardo. The documentary shifts gear from the Art Game to the Money Game where its market is managed by the predator of greed.
Over the years, Salvator Mundi’s value bumped to $127.5 million, eventually becoming the most expensive painting ever sold at $450 million. The value of artwork in the money market fluctuates by its complexity setting, and with players fueled with personal agenda and greed.
Evan Beard, Senior Vice President of National Art Services Executive in Bank of America, pointed out that Salvator Mundi would value as $1,175 if painted by a follower of da Vinci, and the value would escalate if it was by a student and exponentiated if it was by the Master himself. Should the painting, currently alleged to be part of a private collection in Saudi Arabia, be authenticated one day by a renowned da Vinic expert, that it was by his student or follower, its value could have plunged overnight. Some high net-worth individuals had lost their fortune overnight. German billionaire Adolf Merckel committed suicide when his business empire ran into financial trouble in the Global Financial Crisis in Jan 2009.
Similarly, when we allow our self-worth to be determined by the world outside ourselves, we are subject to the external wavering trends, values, and goalposts.
Apart from material wealth, living in a culture that celebrates achievements, extraordinary, outstanding accomplishments push us to excellence and perfection to gain external recognition. We lend our identity to the job title we hold, the brand of bags we carry, and the address of our abode. Putting up an image that is not true to our personality and a job that gives little joy is like salmons swimming upstream to spawn, but ending in exhaustion, and compromising our individuality. When we measure our worth by fame, popularity, appraisal, opinion, and material wealth, we tend to compete and conform to the world’s expectations. We could lose ourselves to competition and conformity.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, Brené Brown highlights,
“The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of “fit in and stand out!” It’s not to cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better.”
We do not see a duck climbing a tree or whales living out of water. Each of us is uniquely created with distinctive features, characters, temperaments, talents, charisms, gifts, DNA, etc. Instead of “fit-in and stand out” to the guys and gals next to us, we could “fit-in” ourselves by nurturing self-acceptance, being comfortable in our skin, and allowing our talents and gifts to stand out. According to Socrates, “an unexamined life was not worth living.”
Another famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said that knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.
Rather than channeling our energy to seek validation from the world, we could take stock of our strengths, weaknesses, talents, aptitudes, and limitations. It takes honesty, courage, and perseverance to discover what jobs, vocations, hobbies, activities, and communities are life-giving and to acknowledge and accept what drains our energy. Coupled with examining our values, be it integrity, kindness, generosity, or gratitude that we hold dearly and uncompromisingly, we move towards finding our true identity and life mission.
Knowing oneself is a treasure we find within ourselves that moth and rust cannot destroy, and thieves cannot steal. The treasure could shape our core values and self-image, defining who we are. Living out of our true image and identity, our inner light then shines. We live a fulfilling life when our self-worth is built on rock rather than sand.
Perhaps it is time to be like the sleeper hunter to quest our worth through our innate qualities, talents, and gifts. When we learn to embrace and hone them, we live out an “authentic me” where the external valuation and authentication are unneeded as each of us is unique and exquisitely priceless.
Written by Kelly Tan