Following previous reports that Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) had been bought by the Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, the Wall Street Journal revealed that another player was involved in the purchase: the Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is the true buyer of the painting. Prince Bader is a friend of Prince Mohammed and acted on his behalf, placing the winning $450.3 million bid for the painting at Christie’s last month.
The news adds another layer of complexity to the backstory behind the purchase last month, which broke virtually every auction record. The New York Times first reported the news earlier this week, as part of a larger report on the spending habits of Saudi Arabia’s wealthy elite.
That article followed an Instagram post from the Louvre Abu Dhabi, saying that the newly inaugurated Emirati museum was going to display the painting. Today, the Louvre Abu Dhabi revealed that it had actually acquire the work through Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, though it is still unclear how the acquisition was made and what connection it has to Prince Mohammed.
In a statement made available on its website, the Saudi Arabian embassy in America said that Prince Bader has been a supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and that on November 8, at the Louvre’s opening ceremony, the Department of Culture and Tourism approached the prince and asked him to act as an “intermediary purchaser.” The statement does not mention Prince Mohammed, the piece’s true buyer.
Update, 12/8/17, 3:45 p.m.: Following a statement from the American embassy of Saudi Arabia, this post has been updated to include further information on the relationship between the Louvre and Prince Bader.