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da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” Bags $450.3 Million in 2017 Bid

After 19 minutes of dueling among five bidders, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold last week for a staggering $450.3 million, shattering the record for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which brought $179.4 million at Christie’s in 2015. There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by multi-million dollar increments. Christ as the Savior of the World was long lost, but was rediscovered in 2005, restored and exhibited in 2011. The painting shows Christ, in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his raised right hand and crossed fingers, while holding a crystal sphere in his left hand. The record price is even more astounding when one considers that the painting is disputed by some experts as not being by the master’s hand. Whatever the truth, it was a remarkable sum paid for the painting.

Italian National Anthem

Who would have believed that Il Canto degli Italiani was never officially adopted as Italy’s National Anthem? Any viewer of Italian sports, soccer matches in particular, is very familiar with the staccato rhythm and classical melody changes of the piece. Musically, it is one of the most interesting of all national anthems, but until last week, it had never been officially adopted by the country. The hymn dates back to 1847, when Goffredo Mameli wrote a patriotic ode for an independent, unified Italy. A fellow Genoese, Michele Novaro, set his words to a rousing tune and Il Canto degli Italiani was born. The song was popular during the period of Italian unification, but lost out to the royalist Marche Reale when the newly formed Kingdom of Italy picked an anthem in 1861. In October 1946, Italy’s post-war government picked it as the de facto anthem of the new Italian Republic, but they never wrote it into law. After seven decades, the Italian Senate’s Constitutional Committee has finally included a provision stating once and for all that Il Canto degli Italiani is Italy’ National Anthem.

Michelangelo’s Hidden Room to Open

For the first time, visitors will be able to enter a hidden room in the Medici Chapels where Michelangelo is thought to have covered the walls with sketches. Until 40 years ago, no one realized that it existed. Curators discovered a secret room beneath the Medici Chapels in the Basilico di San Lorenzo in Florence, with walls covered in what appeared to be unknown sketches by the Renaissance master. The curators ordered the room to be sealed to the public for conservation. But the room could soon be permanently opened to visitors for the first time in history. Until now, only a few art experts have been permitted to enter the narrow cell where historians believe that Michelangelo hid for two months in 1530 following his departure from his patrons, the Medicis. The artist, then 55, is thought to have spent the time ‘doodling.’ The chamber’s walls are covered with sketches in charcoal and chalk which resemble figures from Michelangelo’s other known works. An exact opening date is yet to be determined.

Naples Monopoly Game

The board game Monopoly, created 82 years ago and inspired by Atlantic City, now has a version based on the Italian city of Naples. The producers have decided to launch new editions of the classic game, based on the major European cities, starting with the southern Italian city. Naples was chosen over Florence and Venice because, in the view of the game’s makers, Naples is a very interesting city. The board features 22 city streets, from Piazza Municipio to Viale Kennedy, as well as elements of local culture. In creating the game, the makers have avoided stereotypes so there are no pizzas, mandolins or spaghetti. Forty people worked on the game for over six months. Initial production of 12,000 copies have already been produced as a first edition, many of which have already been reserved.

Another Record Year for Italian Cheese

Italy’s cheese exports hit a record high this year, driven by a growing global appetite for Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. Italy is expected to export almost one billion pounds of cheese for the first time ever. This represents an increase of 7% over last year and whopping 84% increase during the past decade. Surprisingly, the biggest market for Italian cheese is a nation with its own cheese culture – France. The French buy 23% of all of Italy’s cheese exports, a figure that has doubled in the past ten years.

Ferrari Wins – Still Unhappy

The bells rang in Maranello following the latest Ferrari win in Brazil. Sebastian Vettel scored his fifth win for the Scuderia this year, virtually assuring himself of a second place in the driver’s championship. His teammate Kimi Räikkönen took the bottom step on the podium by finishing third. It was the team’s first win at the Interlagos circuit in ten years and the first win for Vettel in the second half of the season, one that has been plagued by mechanical gremlins and first lap collisions.

But all is not well. Even before the race, Chairman Sergio Marchionne said the Ferrari could quit the sport if Formula One’s new owners take it in a direction contrary to the Italian sports car maker’s interests. Marchionne announced that while he supported cost-cutting, there were other strategic issues under discussion that could force Ferrari to consider racing elsewhere. “Formula One has been part of our DNA since the day we were born,” he said. “But if we change the sandbox to the point where it becomes an unrecognizable sandbox, I don’t want to play anymore.”