Update, 12/8/17, 1:20 p.m.: Since this article’s publication, new reports have revealed the true buyer of the painting, the Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud is now understood to have been acting on Prince Mohammed’s behalf.
The buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), which as of last month is the most expensive artwork ever sold, is the Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. The buyer’s identity, reported by the New York Times this evening, was discovered in the midst of an investigation into Saudi Arabia’s elite class, including Prince Bader’s family and associates, who have been criticized for their showy displays of wealth.
Prince Bader is not well-known as an art collector. It had been speculated, however, that the buyer might have hailed from the Middle East, particularly following posts on social media earlier today announcing that the painting was making its way to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which has acquired the work through Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
At the fateful auction where Salvator Mundi wound up making international headlines when it soared past figures ever previously seen at auction, Christie’s postwar and contemporary art co-chairman Alex Rotter was representing Prince Bader in the room. Other anonymous bidders vied for the work, but their names have not yet been revealed. According to the New York Times, Prince Bader is paying for Salvator Mundi in six installments, with at least five of them priced at more than $58 million.
Before it sold for a total of $450.3 million, the lot had been expected to be an expensive one—but it far exceeded expectations on its way to smashing auction records of all kinds. Many years earlier, in 1958, it sold for £45 at Sotheby’s. Only in 2011 was it authenticated as a true Leonardo.