Leonardo's "Salvator Mundi" Is Headed to the Louvre Abu Dhabi


A Leonardo da Vinci painting of Christ that sold in NY for a record $450 million (380 million euros) is heading to a museum in the United Arab Emirates.

The announcement only partially resolves the mystery over the painting's sale last month in NY for $450.3m, with auction house Christie's steadfastly declining to identify the buyer.

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Christie's declined to say whether the museum bought the painting.

This particular prince reportedly did not have a history of collecting art and was a friend of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

News that the painting will turn up at the Louvre Abu Dhabi does not resolve the mystery surrounding the identity of the buyer or buyers, though some had speculated that it was acquired by an Emirati museum or collector. Buyers from the Middle East and Asia have been snapping up masterpieces to fill regional museums - and pushing prices ever higher. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are close allies.

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It is the first of three museums slated to open on the emirate's Saadiyat Island, with plans also in place for an edition of New York's Guggenheim.

Featuring a vast silver-toned dome, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, drawing inspiration from Arab design and evoking both an open desert and the sea. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organizes exhibitions in return for one billion euros ($1.16 billion). Da Vinci's La Belle Ferronnière is on loan there from the Louvre in Paris.

The work - entitled "Salvator Mundi", sold on Wednesday, was painted five centuries ago and is the only painting by the Italian Renaissance polymath to be privately held, Efe news reported.

Believed to be the last Da Vinci in private hands, Salvator Mundi commanded four times what Christie's had projected even as sceptics questioned its authenticity. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it for US$127.5 million in 2013.

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