Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the actual buyer of a painting of Jesus by Leonardo da Vinci that soldfor a record-breaking $450 million at auction last month, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
The young crown prince, known by his initials MBS, used an intermediary to buy the much-sought-after painting of Christ, “Salvator Mundi,” the newspaper reported, citing USintelligence and other unnamed sources..
The son of Saudi King Salman is seen as the mastermind of last month’s rounding-up of more than 200 princes, ministers and businessmen in a sweeping anti-corruption purge.
The painting — one of fewer than 20 works generally accepted as being by the Renaissance master, according to Christie’s — was bought by little-known Prince Bader binAbdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, reports say.
The Journal reported that Bader was the nominal buyer, but said MBS was identified in US intelligence reports as the true owner.“
He is a proxy for MBS,” an unnamed figure in the Gulf art world told the Journal.
American officials are keeping close tabs on the crown prince, the paper said, citing unnamed sources.
On Wednesday, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced that the record-breaking Da Vinci painting would be displayed there.
“Salvator Mundi” — dated to around 1500 — is the last known Da Vinci in the hands of a private collector. It was long believed to be a copy but was finally authenticated about a dozen years ago.