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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Saudi Crown Prince MBS bought Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” for $450 Million

Western media is abuzz with reports of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most mysterious painting, “Salvator Mundi” hanging in Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s yacht, The Serene. However, Riyadh has neither confirmed nor denied this news.


Since its sale for a record $450 million, the whereabouts of the “Salvator Mundi” said to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci, has become one of the art world’s greatest mysteries.

On Monday, London-based art dealer Kenny Schachter, writing for the website Artnews, offered answers: the painting now resides on the gargantuan yacht owned by powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Many art experts are split over whether the painting is genuine, saying it was not painted by the Italian master personally but instead by his workshop.

Since its record-setting sale at Christie’s in 2017, the painting, in which Jesus Christ is depicted emerging from darkness blessing the world with one hand while holding a transparent globe in the other, has never been exhibited in public, triggering doubts about its ownership, whereabouts and authenticity.

Many art experts are split over whether the painting is genuine, saying it was not painted by the Italian master personally but instead by his workshop.

Read more: Who paid $450 million for this Da Vinci painting?

Riyadh Silent over MBS’s Extravagance

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the painting was bought by Saudi prince Badr bin Abdullah, who acted in the name of the Saudi crown prince, known by his initials MBS. Riyadh never confirmed or denied that report.

Liz Sly, the Beirut bureau chief for the Washington Post, highlighted that earlier Riyadh had “insisted” that a Da Vinci painting had been purchased for the Abu Dhabi Louvre. She tweeted, “The Saudis insisted that the Salvator Mundi, supposedly a Da Vinci, had been bought for the Abu Dhabi Louvre. Then it went missing. Now it’s apparently turned up on Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s yacht.”

Hisham Melham, renowned Lebanese columnist, highlighted that the painting in question was produced by Leonardo da Vinci’s studio but “not by the master” himself. Melham added that the Saudi crown Prince paid a “foolish sum of $450 million” to adorn his $550 million yacht with the mysterious painting.

Read more: Did Saudi Crown Prince buy the new Da Vinci painting?

“Whiskey away at night”

AFP could not corroborate Schachter’s column, and in a nod to the opaque nature of international art sales, he wrote, “In the murky Middle Eastern waters nothing is quite crystal clear.” But citing several sources including two involved in the sale, Schachter claims the painting “was whisked away in the middle of the night on MBS’s plane and relocated to his yacht, the Serene.”

After saying the painting was originally found in shards and had to be reconstructed before its auction, he asks, “what harm could the occasional splash of seawater do?”

Schachter later wrote that the painting will remain onboard the massive yacht until it is relocated to the Al-Ula governorate, which Saudi Arabia is aiming to transform into a culture and tourism destination.

Read more: Da Vinci design jewel still key for Tuscan silk weavers

Margaret Cooker, the investigative journalist and author, took a jibe at Saudi Crown Prince MBS’s shocking art investment in a cleverly worded tweet. She noted, “What does Saudi ruler MBS – whose father is the custodian of the two holy mosques – wake up to see when he spends his night on his mega-yacht? Apparently a super expensive picture of Jesus.”