The famous painting of Jesus “Salvator Mundi” has disappeared. It is the most expensive painting ever to be auctioned. Now rumors are loud. The trail leads to Saudi Arabia.
In November 2017, a portrait of Jesus Christ by Leonardo da Vinci entitled Salvator Mundi sold at a Christie’s New York auction for an incredible $450,312,500; a monumental sale price that makes it the world’s most expensive painting. The anonymous bidder of the artwork was later discovered to be the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman.
The most expensive painting in the world was supposed to be exhibited at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi. But the museum has probably never received Salvator Mundi. The management is shrouded in silence. Now it is speculations run wild with what could have happened with the painting.
Only after the New York Times did some digging it turned out: The buyer might actually have been the Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud. He is a close confidant of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. A few months after the purchase, Prince Bader was appointed Minister of Culture.
Shortly after the auction, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced on Twitter: “Da Vinci’s” Salvator Mundi “is coming to the Louvre.” But the exhibition announced for September 2018 never took place. A public statement was not issued by the museum.
What happened to the painting?
Now experts are asking what has happened to the painting. The auction house has shipped the artwork long ago. But the Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman has never commented on the purchase.
In the meantime, three theories are circulating in the media about what might have happened to the painting.
Theory 1: Prince Bader bought the painting on behalf of bin Salman – and he has decided to keep it for the time being. He would probably also go further questions out of the way, why Prince Bader was appointed so shortly after the Minister of Culture.
Theory 2: Some art experts have doubts as to whether the picture is really of Leonardo da Vinci. Withholding the painting could be a skilful move to avoid further scrutiny. If the work turns out to be a fake, that would be a costly flop for the buyer.
Theory 3: It is rumored that Crown Prince bin Salman has handed Salvator Mundi over to the bin Zayid family in Abu Dhabi.
The artwork’s disappearance is unsettling for many, especially for Dianne Modestini, a professor at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and a conservator who has worked on the painting. “It is tragic,” said Modestini to the New York Times. “To deprive the art lovers and many others who were moved by this picture — a masterpiece of such rarity — is deeply unfair.”