Saudi prince is $450.3 mn Da Vinci art buyer at auction

Salvator Mundi Leonardo da Vinci

Salvator Mundi Leonardo da Vinci

Intelligence sources claim that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman used a proxy to pay the eye-watering sum for "Salvator Mundi" when it went under the hammer last month.

"Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of governing a commission overseeing the development of Al Ola, which contains an important archaeological site". The names of the other anonymous bidders have not yet been revealed.

According to documents reviewed by the New York Times, Prince Bader is paying Christie's the $450.3 million (including a buyer's premium) in six monthly installments of roughly $58.4 million each.

But The Journal reported that Bader was the nominal buyer, and Crown Prince Salman was identified in USA intelligence reports as the true owner.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.

As auctioneers in NY watched on disbelief, the bidding war over Salvator Mundi far outstripped the original "conservative" estimate of $100 million.

The work was owned by Russian Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who reportedly bought the oil painting for a staggering $127.5 million in 2013.

The painting, called "Salvator Mundi", or "Savior of the World", is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands.

The ethereal portrait invites comparisons to Da Vinci's most famous work, Mona Lisa.

At the time, dealers were unable to verify the authenticity of the Salvator Mundi - unaware they were handling what auction house Christie's said was "the male Mona Lisa". The 66-centimeters-tall work of art dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand carrying a crystal sphere.

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