THE story of a lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci has inspired a Warrington artist to pursue his passion full time.

Lee Trantum, a former William Beaumont School student, spent seven months creating his own version of Salvator Mundi which caught the eye of Warrington Museum and Art Gallery.

It is now being exhibited there until at least the end of the year.

Da Vinci’s 1500 Renaissance piece, depicting Jesus, was long thought to be a copy of a lost original but it was rediscovered and restored for an exhibition at the National Gallery in London in 2011.

Then in November 2017 it again made headlines when it was sold at auction for $450million. There have been many reports since then including plans to display the artwork at the Louvre Abu Dhabi as the museum’s ‘Mona Lisa’ but its current whereabouts are now unknown.

Lee, of Kerridge Drive, said: “It’s fascinating that da Vinci’s work is still creating headlines 500 years later.

“If you look at artists over the centuries, Leonardo da Vinci has always been the benchmark.

“I’ve been wanting to do a Renaissance piece for a while and when it came to light about this painting that sold for a huge amount and the backstory behind that, I found my inspiration.”

Lee, who balances his time between his artwork and job in chemical processing at Warrington’s PQ Corporation, is now working on his interpretations of da Vinci’s Saint John the Baptist and Mona Lisa.

The artist, who found he had a natural talent when he started drawing Disney characters when he was seven, added: “I’ve definitely reached a turning point with my work and my process since doing this piece and feel I’m getting better and better. I’ve applied for a couple of competitions and I hope to get my work seen by galleries and dealers so my career will take off a bit more.

“I’ve got two pieces on the go now so I’m constantly working on something. Salvator Mundi took me about seven months using glazing techniques to build up the texture and tone.

“It’s the first time I’ve used this technique and I’m quite pleased about the work that is coming out of it. I’ve been learning about da Vinci’s techniques and have been making my own way with it really. I’m very pleased to have the painting exhibited in my hometown. Maybe it will inspire other people too.”