According to Christie's, the painting once belonged to King Charles I of England in the mid-1600s. Christie's did not identify the seller, other than to say it was a European private collector.
The auction house's global president Jussi Pylkkänen was the auctioneer and said the sale was the pinnacle of his career so far.
The work was accepted as an authentic da Vinci when it was included in a 2011 exhibition of the artist's works at London's National Gallery, and two years later it was sold to the billionaire Russian oligarch painting Dmitry Rybolovlev for US$127.5 million ($AU168m).
The painting was sold again in 1958 and then was acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted-over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000 (8,445 euros).
"Salvator Mundi is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time", said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie's, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.
The value of private sales are rarely known, but a Willem de Kooning and a Gauguin were previously thought the most expensive, sold in 2015 separately for $300 million each, according to U.S. media reports. "Despite being created approximately 500 years ago, the work of Leonardo is just as influential to the art that is being created today as it was in the 15th and 16th centuries".
The highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction had been $179.4 million (152 million euros), for Pablo Picasso's painting "Women of Algiers (Version O)" in May 2015, also at Christie's in NY.
Christie's said most scholars agree that the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship.
The 26-inch-tall (66-centimeter-tall) Leonardo painting dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, his right hand raised in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.
The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY before the sale. Svetla Nikolova, who is from Bulgaria but lives in NY, called the painting "spectacular".
Why? Because that piece of artwork, called "Salvator Mundi", is credited to Leonardo da Vinci.
Visitors wait outside Christie's to view Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", Nov. 14, 2017, in NY. It had been estimated at $100 million.
The work was exhibited at The National Gallery in London in 2011, after years of research trying to document its authenticity after it was found, mistaken for a copy, in a U.S. auction in 2005. It was long believed to have existed but was generally presumed to have been destroyed.
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