Record-breaking Leonardo painting goes to Louvre Abu Dhabi

Lawrence Kim
December 7, 2017

Alex Rotter, the auction house's co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art in the Americas, represented the anonymous buyer of the Da Vinci and placed the winning bid after a spellbinding 19-minute contest that saw offers at $200 million, $300 million and $350 million fall short. Salvator Mundi features an image of Christ wearing a Renaissance-inspired robe. In particular, Abu Dhabi rents the Portrait of an Unknown Woman by Leonardo da Vinci and painting Napoleon Crossing the Alps by Jacques-Louis David. It is also the only one in private hands. French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche earlier reported that two investment firms had purchased the painting in the hope of lending it to museums.

"The word "masterpiece" barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo's painting", said Wintermute.

Ever since the sale at Christie's, the identity of the buyer has been the most sought-after secret in the art world and beyond.

The New York Times reported that the victor of the sale at Christie's on November 15 was a Saudi prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, citing documents provided to the newspaper from inside Saudi Arabia. He provided a $100m deposit to qualify for the auction and said he acquired his wealth through real estate when asked by Christie's as part of its due diligence check.

Finally, the splashy purchase came just as Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was leading a "sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment" among the country's elite, as the Times noted.

Prince Bader's purchase of the painting is surprising for a number of reasons, as the New York Times noted.

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

"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.

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

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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