New York City, USA : Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is the mystery buyer that paid a record-breaking $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, Salvator Mundi, at an auction last month according to media reports referencing U.S. intelligence officials.
The winning bid in the November 15 auction at Christie’s in New York was made anonymously by phone using a Christie’s representative. Documents reportedly showed another member of the royal family, Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, placed the final bid, but intelligence officials say Bader was just a proxy for crown prince Mohammed.
The timing of the purchase was notable, coming just two weeks after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched an anti-corruption campaign, rounding up more than 200 Saudi businessmen, ministers and princes. Most are being detained at a luxury hotel in the capital, Riyadh.
The identity of the buyer became something of a parlor game. Even executives at Christie’s had questions about who it was.
Prince Bader did not present himself as a bidder until the day before the auction. At that time he put down a $100 million deposit to qualify for bidding. Christie’s pressed him to establish both his identity and the source of his money. 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.
A spokeswoman for Christie’s would not comment on the identity of the buyer, but did confirm the painting would be displayed at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, a branch of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Louvre Abu Dhabi also tweeted the painting would be heading its way.
The choice of painting is also curious. Salvator Mundi portrays Jesus holding an orb in his left hand while raising his right. Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict form of Islam which shuns visual portrayals of religious figures.
The previous owner of Salvator Mundi was a Russian businessman, Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127 million in 2013.
EARLIER: Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ Painting Sold For $450M At NYC auction – In a bidding war that spanned nearly 20 minutes, Leonardo da Vinci’s 500-year-old ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting finally sold for a record $450 million at Christie’s auction in New York late Wednesday. It was expected to go for at least $100 million, but finally went well beyond that as bids poured in.
Christie’s tweeted that it set a world auction record for any work of art sold at auction. Officials didn’t immediately identify the buyer. Audible cheers and applause could be heard inside the Christie’s auction house in New York when bidding completed.
“‘Salvator Mundi’ is a painting of the most iconic figure in the world by the most important artist of all time,” said Loic Gouzer, co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “The opportunity to bring this masterpiece to the market is an honor that comes around once in a lifetime.”
Six years ago, art collector Robert Simon bought, for $10,000, and restored what he thought was a merely a copy of Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci’s long lost work, the “Salvator Mundi” (Italian for “Savior of the World”).
But it turns out, it was a bona fide da Vinci — one of only 15 the artist had ever created.
“Salvator Mundi”, the painting, is 26-inches-tall and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes, with his right hand in blessing as his left hand holds a crystal sphere.
Leonardo da Vinci painted it in the 1500s, but since then, it’s changed hands many times.
Once owned by King Charles I of England – who died on the chopping block – it disappeared in 1763 for over 100 years before resurfacing in London. In 1958, it was auctioned off for about $100, dropping off the grid once again for another 50 years before Simon picked it up in the U.S.
The painting to have held the record for the most paid ever at auction was $179.4 million for Picasso’s “Women of Algiers (Version O)” in May 2015.
The highest known sale price for any artwork was $300 million, for Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange,” which sold privately in September 2015.