RIYADH – Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman has emerged as the mystery purchaser of a $450.3million Leonardo da Vinci painting through one of his close confidante who happens to be his cousin.
According to a report by Wall Street Journal quoting U.S. government intelligence and a Saudi art-world figure familiar with the purchase, the 32-years-old aspiring Saudi King used Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud as a proxy who bought the record-breaking da Vinci painting of Christ during an auction last month at Christie’s in New York City.
The museum had then announced through Twitter that the artwork believed to be some 500-years-old was heading to the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi.
— Louvre Abu Dhabi (@LouvreAbuDhabi) December 6, 2017
Painted in oil on a wooden board measuring 18 by 26 inches, the painting shows its subject gazing dreamily at the viewer, his right hand raised in benediction while holding a crystal orb in left hand.
The painting that goes by the name ‘Salvator Mundi’ has become the most expensive painting ever sold, with the buyer coming out as Saudi Royal going by the initials MBS – a man who is leading an anti-corruption swoop in the oil-rich kingdom.
The whooping 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 New York.
The purchase comes at a time when the Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince has confined his cousins including the billionaire Alwaleed Bin Talal to Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a corruption probe.
‘Salvator Mundi,’ meaning ‘Savior of the World,’ went on public display in 2011 in a dramatic unveiling at The National Gallery in London, where the work was declared to be the first newly discovered Da Vinci painting in a century.
It is one of fewer than 20 paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master’s own hand, according to Christie’s.
It had sold for a mere 45 British pounds in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005, Daily Mail reported.
Its latest sale was initiated by Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of the football club AS Monaco who had bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million although he later accused a Swiss art dealer of overcharging him.
Mohammad Bin Salman’s Extravagance
Although the country having the most sacred Islamic sites is passing through a rough patch in terms of economy testified by the deportation of thousands of Pakistanis in recent few months, MBS lifestyle gives an altogether different view.
During a holiday in the Cote d’Azur last year, the prince took only a few hours to buy the yacht of Russian billionaire Yuri Sheffler for 500 million euros (roughly $550 million).
The monster yacht was once among the world’s three biggest, according to Forbes, behind Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich’s 162.5m Eclipse and iron and steel tycoon Viktor Rashikov’s 140-metre Ocean Victory.