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Mystery buyer of Leonardo’s $450M painting of Jesus identified as Saudi prince

Tolga Akmen | AFP

The extravagant record-breaking purchase comes in the midst of a crackdown on personal enrichment in the kingdom

In a surprising development in the art world, the New York Times reported that last month’s mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s $450 million painting of Jesus, “Salvator Mundi,” was a little-known Saudi Prince.

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin arhan al-Saud, the New York Times reported, is not known to be a major art collector, and is a friend and associate of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The timing of the purchase is puzzling, coming in the midst of Prince Mohammad’s crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment in Saudi Arabia. On November 4, the Times reported, the crown prince detained 200 of the richest Saudi princes, businessmen and government officials.

Why a Saudi prince with close ties to the regime would risk offending Muslims within his country with an extravagant purchase of a painting of Jesus Christ as Savior of the world, is similarly mystifying.

The Times reported that while Prince Bader did not respond to a request to comment, the newly opened branch of the Louvre in Adu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, tweeted on Wednesday that “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to 3LouvreAbuDhabi.”

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