Saudi Prince Salman denies buying $450m Jesus paint

Saudi Prince Salman denies buying $450m Jesus paint

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the actual buyer of a painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci that sold for a record-breaking $450 million at auction last month, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

According to the New York Times, the painting's buyer was not the museum but an outside party: one Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a "little-known" Saudi Arabian prince with no history as an art collector.

American officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter, reiterated on Friday that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was the true buyer at the time of the auction.

A UAE government official confirmed the painting belonged to the Abu Dhabi government and would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The 500-year-old painting of Christ is believed to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

The result obliterated previous world records for an art sale of any kind, including the auction high of $179.4 million for a Pablo Picasso painting sold in 2015.

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Promoted as an encyclopedic museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to much fanfare last month, and now it appears to have secured a work that is sure to attract tourists from all over the world. His statement did not mention the painting or address whether he had bought it. While it was reported yesterday that the painting was purchased by a Saudi prince, it turns out that it was actually acquired by Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.

The museum opened with about 600 pieces including items from early Mesopotamia.

Salvator Mundi, which depicts Jesus holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in blessing, is one of some 16 known surviving works painted by da Vinci. Da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronnière" is on loan there from the Louvre in Paris.

It had sold for a mere £45 in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005.

He had bought the painting in 2013 for $127.5 million although he later accused a Swiss art dealer of overcharging him.

The painting, which depicts Jesus Christ holding a glass ball in one hand, was sold at Christie's by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev on November 15.

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