Following contradictory reports about the identity of the mystery buyer who shelled out $450 million, the largest known sum ever paid for an artwork, for Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has issued a statement today claiming that it owns the work.
In a post on Twitter, the recently opened institution wrote: “Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum.”
The announcement comes a day after the New York Times revealed that the collector who purchased the work was the Saudi Arabian prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. However, the Wall Street Journal has since published a report stating that Bader was only an intermediary, and that the crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman is the actual buyer of the work.
Adding to the confusion is a statement that Bader released in Arabic yesterday which claims the initial New York Times report contained “surprising and inaccurate information,” though he did not outright deny that he bought the canvas. According to The Guardian, US intelligence confirms that Mohammed bin Salman was behind the winning bid.
The crown prince may have wanted to keep his identity a secret to avoid criticism over the extravagant purchase, since he is currently behind a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment. He may have then donated the work to the country’s Department of Culture and Tourism.
[Update:] In response to the number of queries regarding the painting, the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, DC, issued the following statement: “Due to the media reporting on the da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi purchase, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC inquired from His Highness Prince Badr Al Saud’s office on the details related to the art piece’s purchase. Upon reaching out, the Embassy learned through information conveyed by His Highness’s office that the art work was acquired by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism for display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and that HH Prince Badr, as a friendly supporter of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, attended its opening ceremony on November 8th and was subsequently asked by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism to act as an intermediary purchaser for the piece.”