Middle East

Saudi prince revealed as buyer of $450mn Da Vinci painting


Riyadh, Dec 7 (IANS): The mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's painting "Salvator Mundi," which fetched a record $450.3 million at an auction in New York last month, is a Saudi prince, a media report said.

The revelation that Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud was the purchaser were according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The painting, a representation of Jesus Christ, was bid to the highest auction price ever achieved to date for a work of art.

Christie's auction house, which handled the sale, had said that it was the only known Da Vinci piece remaining in private hands.

According to The New York Times revelation, Prince Bader is "little known from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth".

He is a friend and associate of the country's 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

A spokeswoman for Christie's said it did not comment on the identities of any buyer or seller without their permission.

Prince Bader did not respond to a detailed request for comment. But as The New York Times pressed for a response on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi tweeted that the painting "is coming to Louvre Abu Dhabi".

Documents provided from inside Saudi Arabia revealed that representatives for Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale.

In order to participate in the bidding, the prince put $100 million on deposit with the auction house, although Christie's subsequently asked for additional information, including the origin of the money he was putting up, with the prince stating simply that it came from "real estate", The New York Times reported.

The painting's previous owner, Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire, had paid $127.5 million for the painting in 2013, less than a third of its sale price last month, and he is still locked in litigation with the dealer who sold it to him over that price.

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