Saudi crown prince bought $450m Da Vinci

Louvre Abu Dhabi

While it was reported yesterday that the painting was purchased by a Saudi prince, it turns out that it was actually acquired by Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.

A UAE government official confirmed the painting belonged to the Abu Dhabi government and would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The newly opened museum made the announcement in a series of tweets, without confirming whether it had purchased, or is simply borrowing, the $450.3 million masterpiece.

"Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold for a record US$450.3 million at auction in November". His statement did not mention the painting or address whether he had bought it. The newspaper said the crown prince used a proxy to handle the acquisition: Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud.

The French weekly le Journal du Dimanche earlier reported that two investment firms were behind the painting's purchase as part of a financial arrangement involving several museums.

Prince Bader is listed as a director of Houston-based Energy Holdings International, Inc.

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened last month, said on its Twitter feed it was "looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci" and said the work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism for the museum. Most who practise Islam - the state religion of Saudi Arabia - shun visual portrayals of its prophets.

The island will also feature the Zayed National Museum, which had signed a loan deal with the British Museum - although the arrangement has come increasingly into question due to construction delays. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organises exhibitions in return for one billion euros ($1.16 billion).

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence.

Apparently, the confusion over its owner stems from the fact that a Saudi prince did indeed make the winning bid on the painting, but he was doing so as a representative for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

Bought a $450M painting? The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013.

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