The heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is revealed as the purchaser of the work by Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci, sold for 450 million dollars in mid November, according to the ‟Wall Street Journal”.
“MBS” As the 32 year old Crown Prince is known, appears to have been the intermediary in the purchase of the work that depicts Christ and is entitled “Salvator Mundi” (“Saviour of the World”), according to the financial newspaper that quotes reports from the American intelligence agency which is particularly interested in the powerful heir.
King Salman’s son is gradually establishing his authority and symbolizes the recent move by the ultra-conservative kingdom towards a further opening. It is seen as the key driving force behind an unprecedented mission of catharsis being presented as an anti-corruption operation, with the arrest of dozens of politicians and business figures which took place in Saudi Arabia in early November.
According to the newspaper’s webpage, the Crown Prince’s middleman is Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Farhan al-Saud who transferred the order to Christie’s auction house who organized the sale.
Last Wednesday, it was announced by the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened officially in early November, that the painting will be exhibited in its halls.
The news comes when the United Arab Emirates announced on Tuesday the establishment of a “Joint Co-operation Committee” with Saudi Arabia, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council which aims to develop economic and military partnerships.
In the Gulf in recent years, it is Qatar that has dominated as a significant factor in the art market.
In June, Saudi Arabia and three of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, broke off diplomatic relations with Doha, accusing it of supporting extremist movements and not putting a clear distance between itself and Shi’ite Iran, a major rival of Sunni Saudi Arabia.
“The Salvator Mundi” is the last known painting of Leonardo da Vinci owned by a private collector. While for a long time it was thought to be the work of a contemporary of the artist and inventor, eventually in 2005 its authenticity was established.