Attrib. Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi (detail),” circa 1500, oil on walnut panel, 25 8/10 x 19 1/5 inches, Louvre Abu Dhabi

By now, nearly everyone on planet earth has heard about the monster $450.3 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” at Christie’s New York on November 15. However, have you heard about who bought it?

The art world continues to buzz nearly a month after the record-breaking sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” on November 15. The hammer price of $450.3 million made it the most expensive painting ever to sell at auction. However, the newest story surrounding the sale isn’t about the work at all, but rather its unknown—until now—buyer.

Multiple news outlets are reporting that the mystery buyer of the painting was a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. His name? Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud.

Attrib. Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi,” circa 1500, oil on walnut panel, 25 8/10 x 19 1/5 inches, Louvre Abu Dhabi

The revelation of the buyer’s identity has set off numerous investigations into his relationship with the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, as well as his acquisition of the funds necessary for the purchase. According to documents obtained by the New York Times, Prince Bader only revealed himself as a potential buyer days before the auction, which sent Christie’s lawyers into a frenzied investigation into Prince Bader’s finances.

Prince Bader’s splurge on a controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ has also fueled questions among the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, who are under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment. According to the New York Times, “Prince Mohammed’s consolidation of power has upended decades of efforts by previous Saudi rulers to build loyalty and consensus within the royal family. And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a New York art auction by one of his associates [Prince Bader], Prince Mohammed’s extravagance has already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan’s 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars.”

To learn more, visit the New York Times, NPR, or the USA Today.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


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