The mysterious buyer of Salvator Mundi, the Leonardo da Vinci painting that sold for record-shattering US$450m on 15 November at Christie’s New York, has been identified as the Saudi Arabian Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud (shown on the left on the image above), according to the New York Times.
This little-known Saudi prince, from a remote branch of the royal family, has no history as a major art collector. He is the Chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), one of the leading integrated publishing groups in the Middle East. He is also reportedly a close associate of the Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. They attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time, if not together.
Prince Bader and Michael Bloomberg
Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman
The staggering amount paid for this purchase is now raising questions over the crackdown spearheaded by the crown prince. The anti-corruption sweep has detained more than 200 people of the Saudi princes, prominent businessmen and high-ranking government officials, shaking the region over the past several weeks. Now Prince Bader is evident to be excluded as a target in the crackdown.
According to the New York Times, appeared as an unknown figure, Prince Bader did not register as bidder until the day before the sale. Officials at Christie’s were scrambling to establish his identity and his financial means. Even after he had provided a $100 million deposit to qualify for the auction, the Christie’s lawyers conducted due diligence to confirm his identity.
The US$45m payment is arranged to be paid in six monthly instalments, five are for $58,385,416.67. However, the prince had originally intended to pay in one lump sum upon completion of the sale. The last instalment is due on May 14. It is 2 cents less: $58,385,416.65.
The decision of buying a portrait of Jesus Christ is controversial given the prince’s Islamic background. Jesus in Islam is considered a prophet and precursor to Muhammad, instead of the saviour. And most Muslims take the artistic depiction of any of the prophets to be sacrilegious.
When asked about the identity of the buyer, a spokeswoman for Christie’s said it did not comment on the identities of any buyers or sellers without their permission.
Salvator Mundi is heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi
On Wednesday, the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates tweeted that the painting “is coming to LouvreAbuDhabi.” in Arabic, English and French. The Saudi crown prince is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.
Louvre Abu Dhabi, Louvre’s first museum outside France, made its grand opening on 8 November 2017 after ten years in the making. It has 300 works on loan from French museums, including Leonardo da Vinci's 'La Belle Ferronniere'. Louvre Abu Dhabi was speculated to be the secret buyer of Salvator Mundi as the museum did not have its own Da Vinci painting as a permanent collection.
'Congratulations, the Salvator Mundi is going to its new home the Louvre Abu Dhabi,' Christie's also replied to the Louvre Abu Dhabi on Twitter.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Salvator Mundi.
Seller: Dmitry Rybolovlev
Buyer: Prince Bader
Size: 65.7 x 45.7cm
Hammer price: US$400,000,000
Price realized: US$450,312,500
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Post-war and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Auction date: 2017/11/15