A Saudi Arabian prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, has been identified by The New York Times as the buyer of the most expensive ever painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi.
Unlike much of the Saudi elite, which has been scooped up or intimidated into silence by Prince Mohammed's ongoing purge, Prince Bader appears to be in good standing with the heir apparent to King Salman's thrown. Louvre Abu Dhabi is a joint project between the French government and the city of Abu Dhabi, to which Saudi's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is a close ally.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi - a franchise of the Paris original - is a symbol of the oil-rich sheikhdom's drive to boost its "soft power" credentials.
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 paper said it had seen documents confirming that Prince Bader had bought the painting.
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Neither Prince Bader nor Christie's confirmed the speculation. Pressed for more information, Prince Bader reportedly gave a terse reply, saying he was in the real estate business and was one of the country's 5,000 princes.
Salvator Mundi's staggering record eclipses the previous podium standings - which, adjusted for modern day pricings - include Interchange by Willem de Kooning which sold for $300 million in 2015, followed by The Card Players by Paul Cezanne which went for $250 million in 2011, followed by Nafea Faa Ipoipo by Paul Gauguin in third place, which sold for $210 million in 2014.
The presence of Salvator Mundi at The Louvre Abu Dhabi will be a great draw.
The museum opened with about 600 pieces including items from early Mesopotamia.
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The Museum already houses one of Leonardo's finest works.
People gather around Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" at Christie's auction rooms in London on October 24.
The painting, dubbed Salvator Mundi or Savior of the World, depicts Jesus Christ. By this time, its authorship by Leonardo, origins and illustrious royal history had been forgotten, and Christ's face and hair were overpainted.
It is one of fewer than 20 paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master's own hand, according to Christie's. It re-emerged in the 1950s, but was written off as a copy and sold for £45 or $60, according to CNN. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it for US$127.5 million in 2013.
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