It's nearly two years to the day since Salvator Mundi, the ostensibly long lost Leonardo da Vinci painting, sold for a record-breaking $450,312,500 in all of 19 minutes at a blockbuster Christie's auction. (And quite a bit longer since it's dominated the news cycle; even Leonardo DiCaprio played a part in building up the hype.) And while the aftershock of that hype lingers amongst the public, Salvator Mundi itself has not; while its buyer was ultimately revealed to be a Saudi Arabian crownprince, its whereabouts have been unknown ever since. It's even bailed on the Louvre not once, but twice, starting with the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where it was supposed to be displayed the following month.
Should it resurface, the Louvre remains at the ready to welcome it into its new da Vinci mega-exhibition in Paris. But it seems that it might be otherwise occupied. While the idea that Salvator Mundi has been vacationing on a €500-million superyacht was initially dismissed as yet another unlikely conspiracy theory, the Art Newspaper has now conducted an extremely in-depth investigation which convincingly argues that that might actually be the case.
The paper has been digging into the matter ever since June, when Kenny Schachter endorsed the theory that Salvator Mundi was indeed at sea with his owner on a yacht named the Serene. So far, its reporters have tracked its route from an Egyptian port in the Mediterranean to the Red Sea—aka even further from the Louvre. And then, the day after the Louvre opened its exhibition, the Serene took off: By way of the Strait of Gibraltar, it briefly stopped in Spain, then forged ahead right past France and into the English Channel.
As of this past Sunday, it was set to dock at a port in the Netherlands, which is just four-and-a-half hours from Paris. Will it turn up at the Louvre after all? Perhaps. But don't be surprised if it sticks to the jetsetter lifestyle: By sticking to the sea, Salvator Mundi has managed to avoid wading into Middle Eastern politics—not to mention a new wave of insults from the many who doubt its provenance, and who've had two full years to dream up even more nicknames along the lines of Salvator Turdi.
While some experts have dismissed the notion that even a crown prince would be so daft as to risk storing the most expensive work ever sold at auction in the midst of massive bodies of water, well, if he has indeed done so, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wouldn't be the first. It's become something of a trend for the 0.01 percent to turn their luxury yachts into displays for their art collections, to the tune of a reported 800 works. (Never mind that the trend has also turned luxury yachts into a repeat scene of the crime for art-related destruction; the horror stories include rogue champagne corks and children targeting a "scary" Basquiat with cornflakes, which the yacht's crew reportedly simply wiped off the work.)