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MBS's friend was mystery buyer of $450-million Da Vinci's painting of Jesus Christ

An obscure Saudi prince was the mystery buyer of this Jesus painting [AFP]

Date of publication: 7 December, 2017

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A friend of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman revealed as mystery buyer of a painting of Christ by Leonardo Da Vinci that recently sold for a record $450 million.
A friend of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was the mystery buyer of "Salvator Mundi," a painting of Christ by Leonardo Da Vinci that recently sold for a record $450 million.

The New York Times on Wednesday, citing documents it reviewed, identified the buyer as Saudi Arabia's Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, whose country forbids the official worship of Christ or any other religion except Islam.

The painting is now heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened to much hype last month, it was announced Wednesday.

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

The post displayed an image of the 500-year-old work but did not identify its owner.

Auction house Christie's has also steadfastly declined to identify the buyer, whose purchase in New York for $450.3 million stunned the art world.

"Congratulations," Christie's said in a tweeted reply to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Prince Bader has no history as a major art collector but is a friend and associate of Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Times said.

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

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

The stunning amount paid by a Saudi royal for a painting that some believe is not a genuine Da Vinci, like reports of Mohammed bin Salman's profilgacy on yachts and similar luxury items, casts in sharp doubt Riyadh's claims of cracking down on extravagence and corruption.

The French weekly le Journal du Dimanche earlier reported that two investment firms were behind the painting's purchase as part of a financial arrangement involving several museums.

The newspaper said that the work will be lent or resold to museums, largely in the Middle East and Asia.

Prince Bader is listed as a director of Houston-based Energy Holdings International, Inc.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.

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 New York.

"Salvator Mundi," which means "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.

Its latest sale was initiated by Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of football club AS Monaco.

He had bought the painting in 2013 for $127.5 million although he later accused a Swiss art dealer of overcharging him.

With AFP

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