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June 16, 2019

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World’s most costly painting on Saudi prince’s yacht: report

SINCE its sale for a record US$450 million, the whereabouts of the “Salvator Mundi,” said to be painted by Leonardo da Vinci, has become one of the art world’s greatest mysteries.

On Monday, London-based art dealer Kenny Schachter, writing for the website Artnews, offered answers: The painting now resides on the gargantuan yacht owned by powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Since its record-setting sale at Christie’s in 2017, the painting, in which Jesus Christ is depicted emerging from darkness blessing the world with one hand while holding a transparent globe in the other, has never been exhibited in public, triggering doubts about its ownership, whereabouts and authenticity.

Many art experts are split over whether the painting is genuine, saying it was not painted by the Italian master personally but instead by his workshop.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the painting was bought by Saudi prince Badr bin Abdullah, who acted in the name of the Saudi crown prince, known by his initials MBS. Riyadh never confirmed or denied that report.

Schachter wrote in his column, in a nod to the opaque nature of international art sales: “In the murky Middle Eastern waters nothing is quite crystal clear.”

But citing several sources, Schachter claims the painting “was whisked away in the middle of the night on MBS’ plane to his yacht, the Serene.”

The painting was originally found in shards and reconstructed. So, he asks, “what harm could the occasional splash of seawater do?” He said the painting will remain onboard the massive yacht until it is relocated to the Al-Ula governorate, which Riyadh aims to transform into a culture and tourism destination.


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