The collector who bought a Leonardo da Vinci painting at Christie’s postwar and contemporary art evening auction last month for $450 million, making it the most expensive art work ever sold, was a little-known Saudi Prince, David D. Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports.
The name of the mystery buyer comes as a surprise since Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud purchased the work during a crackdown on corruption and extravagant spending by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. In addition, da Vinci’s portrayal of Christ in Salvator Mundi, ca. 1500, as the savior of the world would most likely be seen as controversial by Muslims in his country, since Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and the artistic depiction of religious figures is forbidden.
According to a biography of Bader on the website of Saudi Arabia’s Energy Holdings International, the prince is described as one of the country’s “youngest entrepreneurs.” Is also says that he chairman of the founding committee of a local consortium, which plans to build a fiber-optic network, in a “strategic partnership” with Verizon, the founder of a recycling and waste-management business, and active in real estate. In July, King Salman made Bader the governor of a commission that aims to develop the province of Al Ola into a tourist destination.
Previously owned by the Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013, the work is the only da Vinci painting that remains in private hands. Before Salvator Mundi, the record for the highest known price ever paid for an artwork was set by Pablo Picasso. His Women of Algiers netted $179.4 million at Christie’s in 2015.