Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi painting has been shrouded in mystery ever since the 16th century creation — one of less than 20 known paintings by the master artist — resurfaced in 2005 at an American estate sale. What followed was one of the biggest art world debates in recent memory over its authenticity — if da Vinci was actually the artist behind it or if it was one of his disciples — as it ended up on display for the public at London's National Gallery and, later, at the auction house Christie's before it fetched a record-breaking price of $450,312,500. Since the painting, which was valued at over $100 million, sold though, its buyer and final destination have been curious. 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.
Today, Christie's revealed the official buyer. “Christie’s can confirm that the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi is acquiring ‘Salvator Mundi’ by Leonardo da Vinci,” the auction house said in a statement, as reported by Reuters. “We are delighted to see that this remarkable painting will be available for public view at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.”
Apparently, the confusion over its owner stems from the fact that a Saudi prince did indeed make the winning bid on the painting, but he was doing so as a representative for the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism. Reuters viewed a document showing that Prince Badr bin Abdullah al Saud was authorized to purchase the painting for the department, which thanked him for “agreeing to bid as undisclosed agent for and on behalf of the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the artwork." Interestingly, Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism gave the prince a budget of $500 million to obtain the painting, which is almost impossible to fathom as the painting which previously held the record for most expensive was Picasso's "Women of Algiers," which sold for $179 million.
The story has somewhat of a happy ending though as, now that it has been obtained by Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism, it will be put on display for the public to enjoy, which may never have happened if it had been purchased by an individual.