$591m Da Vinci painting heads to Abu Dhabi's new Louvre

Thursday, 07 Dec, 2017

2011, saw the dramatic public unveiling of Salvator Mundi ('Savior of the World') in the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan, at The National Gallery, London.

The newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi made the announcement on Wednesday (local time).

"Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi", the museum said on Twitter in Arabic, English and French.

Interchange by Willem de Kooning-which changed hands privately in 2015-had also previously held the title of the painting with the highest known sale price, at US$300 million.

The announcement only partially resolves the mystery over the painting's sale last month in NY for $450.3m, with auction house Christie's steadfastly declining to identify the buyer.

He described the artwork as, "The Holy Grail of old master paintings".

According to The New York Times, the painting was bought by Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, who is said to be a close friend of Saudi Arabia's all-powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The mystery is still evident with some rumours flying around since the work of art was sold in November.

The auction house said no more, and a Christie's representative declined to offer more details. It was restored and confirmed as an authentic da Vinci in 2005.

Salvator Mundi's path from Leonardo's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth.

Salvatore Mundi was first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I (1600-1649), and thought to have hung in the private chambers of Henrietta Maria - the wife of King Charles I - in her palace in Greenwich, and was later in the collection of Charles II.

Upon re-emerging at auction in 1958, it was dismissed as a copy and sold for just £45 ($60).

It was badly damaged and partly painted-over. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013.

Christie's says most scholars agree the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship. By then the painting was generally reckoned to be the work of a follower of Leonardo and not the work of Leonardo himself.

The work was exhibited in Hong Kong, San Francisco, London and NY before the sale.