Saudi prince is buyer of world's dearest painting, Leonardo's Salvator Mundi

Thursday, 07 Dec, 2017

Attendants last month at a New York City art sale gasped after an anonymous buyer put up a baffling $450.3 million for Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" - making it the most expensive painting ever sold at auction.

The New York Times reported Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud purchased the painting at the November 15 auction.

Christie's has steadfastly declined to say who bought the artwork, but confirmed its destination on Wednesday, at least partly solving the mystery.

The hefty price tag raises questions over who's targeted - and who's spared - in the Saudi regime's far-reaching corruption crackdown.

Prince Mohammed, in turn, has been called an admirer of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.

Prince Bader did not respond to a detailed request for comment.

Bader has spent large sums on several ritzy commodities in recent years, including half a billion dollars on a 440-foot yacht.

At that time it was attributed to a da Vinci disciple, rather than to the master himself.

The sale more than doubled the previous record of $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso's 'The Women of Algiers (Version O)' in 2015, also in NY.

Although Prince Badar did not respond to The Times' detailed request for comment, the Louvre in Abu Dhabi - a museum in the United Arab Emirates - tweeted Wednesday that the "Salvator Mundi" was "coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi", The Times said.

It is the first of three museums slated to open on the emirate's Saadiyat Island, with plans also in place for an edition of New York's Guggenheim.

Featuring a vast silver-toned dome, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, drawing inspiration from Arab design and evoking both an open desert and the sea.

The museum opened with some 600 pieces including items from early Mesopotamia. The Louvre is planning a blockbuster da Vinci exhibition for 2019, but the loans for it have not been made public.

In 1958, it was sold at auction in London for $60, BBC reported. It was sold for just thousands in 2005 but was bought again in 2013 for $127.5 million by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.