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Saudi Prince Identified as Buyer of $450.3M Leonardo Painting "Salvator Mundi"

07 December 2017

The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on Nov 8 in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, who described the new museum as a "bridge between civilisations".

USA government intelligence sources and a Saudi art-world figure all confirmed to The Journal that Crown Prince Mohammed was the buyer of a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ.

A spokeswoman for Christie's, the auction house that sold Salvator Mundi, said it did not comment on the identities of any buyers or sellers without their permission. The painting was sold November 15 for $450 million.

Bader is an unknown figure in the art collection circle.

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud was identified as the mystery buyer in a New York Times report published Wednesday, but is now reported to be a proxy for the crown prince.

Prince Bader has no history as a major art collector but is a friend and associate of Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Times said. When King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed to overlook most of the governmental activities, Prince Bader was asked to take over high positions by the prince.

Documents provided from inside Saudi Arabia and reviewed by The Times reveal that representatives for the buyer, Prince Bader, did not present him as a bidder until the day before the sale.

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The French weekly le Journal du Dimanche earlier reported that two investment firms were behind the painting's purchase as part of a financial arrangement involving several museums. Prior to the auction, Christie's lawyers questioned him about his ties to the royal family and the source of his money, which he told them came from real estate.

Prince Bader is listed as a director of Houston-based Energy Holdings International, Inc.

Prince Bader was also made the chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, which is controlled by the Salman branch of the royal family. He now serves as chairman of the Riyadh-based Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which publishes 15 magazines and newspapers, including the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

In the crackdown, Prince Mohammed was looking to regain hundreds of billions of dollars in alleged illicit gains, according to the Times.

'Congratulations, ' Christie's said in a tweeted reply to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi crown prince is a close ally of his counterpart in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Prince Identified as Buyer of $450.3M Leonardo Painting