Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Saudi crown prince bought $450 mn Da Vinci

Saudi crown prince bought $450 mn Da Vinci

The mass purge was in fact ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who organized a series of midnight arrests that included 11 of his royal cousins-who happens to be one of Prince Bader's friends and associates. The painting, one of fewer than 20 surviving by the Renaissance Master, sold for $450m at Christie's in NY on 15 November.

The Saudi prince who bought the world's most expensive painting is a close business associate of the ruling branch of the royal family, raising questions about its involvement.

And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a NY art auction by one of his associates, Prince Mohammed's extravagance had already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan's 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars. Most are being detained at a luxury hotel in the capital, Riyadh. 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. When the price reached an already world-record $225m, Bader bid in $5m steps to reach $260m in less than two minutes of the auction beginning. At that time he put down a $100 million deposit to qualify for bidding. The auction house Christie's scrambled to establish his identity and wealth. The prince's response was that he made his money in real estate, and that he was just one of some 5,000 Saudi princes.

Christie's let the cat out of the bag yesterday and publically said the artwork would be going to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on Nov 8 in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, who described the new museum as a "bridge between civilisations".

The choice of painting is also curious.

Painted in oil on a wooden board measuring 18 by 26 inches, "Salvator Mundi" shows its subject gazing dreamily at the viewer, his right hand raised in benediction, while his left clutches a crystal orb. Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict form of Islam which shuns visual portrayals of religious figures.

Da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence. They turned it down, and did not bid on it this time around. Some art critics say it lacks the vitality of da Vinci's work, and that it has been painted and scrubbed a number of times. Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev was the previous owner, who paid $127.5 million in 2013.

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