Arts&Culture

Saudi prince buyer of da Vinci painting

Saudi prince buyer of da Vinci painting

Yesterday, the New York Times claimed to have cracked the biggest art world mystery of the year, identifying an obscure Saudi prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, as the buyer of the $450.3 million Leonardo da Vinci painting "Salvator Mundi" at Christie's last month.

The winning bid in the November 15 auction at Christie's in NY was made anonymously by phone using a Christie's representative.

The victor of the NY auction was Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed.

The news initially made a splash on Twitter with many questioning how Prince Bader could afford such an expensive purchase with his lower ranking position in the royal family. But the timing on this purchase was notable.

The crown prince's supporters portray him as a reformer, but the campaign of extrajudicial arrests has been unprecedented for modern Saudi Arabia, worrying western governments about political stability in the world's largest oil producer, alarming rights advocates and investors about the rule of law, and roiling energy markets. Many were beaten, and only released from the gilded cage of Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton hotel after agreeing to hand over assets worth billions of dollars. We now know that the Louvre Abu Dhabi is going to exhibit "Salvator Mundi", However, the identity of the buyer had remained an elusive secret with much speculation surrounding the purchaser.

Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of governing a commission overseeing the development of Al Ola, which contains an important archaeological site. The auction house Christie's scrambled to establish his identity and wealth.

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The Saudi crown prince is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.

The work - known as Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci - is is heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the museum has said.

The choice of painting is also curious. Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict form of Islam which shuns visual portrayals of religious figures.

Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

He is paying for the iconic painting in six installments, with at least five of them priced at more than $58million, the Times reported.

The island will also feature the Zayed National Museum, which had signed a loan deal with the British Museum - although the arrangement has come increasingly into question due to construction delays.