First Published: 2017-12-08

Saudi crown prince ‘bought’ $450 mn Da Vinci
Wall Street Journal reports Prince Mohammed used intermediary to buy much-sought-after painting of Christ “Salvator Mundi.”
Middle East Online

Salvator Mundi painting was sold for a record-breaking $450 million at auction last month

NEW YORK - Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the actual buyer of a painting by Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci that sold for a record-breaking $450 million at auction last month, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The young and dynamic 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 US intelligence and other unnamed sources.

The son of Saudi King Salman is seen to be progressively consolidating his power, and is the architect of a wide-ranging plan dubbed Vision 2030 to bring social and economic change to his country's oil-dependent economy.

He is also 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 bin Abdullah 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.

The reports come shortly after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a new military and economic committee, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In recent years, Qatar has been the biggest player in the Gulf art world, but in June, Saudi Arabia and some of its allies broke off diplomatic and trade relations with Doha, which they accuse of supporting extremist movements.

"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.

 

UN Security Council lenient to Turkey’s Syria offensive

Washington probes Hezbollah ‘narcoterrorism’

Tillerson to present US strategy on Syria to European, Arab allies

Russia pension funds may invest in Aramco IPO

Iranian woman skydiver looks to break down stereotypes

Qaeda leader calls on Muslims to attack Jews, Americans over Jerusalem

Palestinians in occupied West Bank get 3G

Turkish army clashes with Kurdish militia amid US alarm

Turkey arrests dozens accused of ‘terror propaganda’

Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq

Women journalists protest separation during Pence visit to Jerusalem

Egypt military accuses presidential hopeful of committing crimes

Israeli minister calls to ban author praising Palestinian teen

Qatar supports Turkey’s offensive against Kurds

World powers meet on Syria chemical attacks

Morocco's king appoints five new ministers

Pence pledges US embassy move by end of 2019 on Jerusalem trip

Russia calls for diplomatic solution to Yemen conflict

Russia invites Kurds to join Syria peace process

Turkey shells Kurdish targets in northern Syria

Closer look at pro-Ankara rebels amassing around Afrin

Pence set for Palestinian snub

Abbas to ask EU to recognise Palestinian state

Saudi-led coalition to give $1.5 bln in Yemen aid

Mattis: Turkey gave US advance warning on Syria operation

Yemen releases budget for first time in three years

Saudi calls for cooperation between OPEC, non-OPEC countries

France presses Turkey to end offensive against Kurds

The changing faces of al-Qaeda in Syria

Kurdish militia fire rockets at Turkish town

Moroccans wary depreciation of dirham could raise cost of living, despite benefits

Deserted streets, terrified civilians after Turkey attacks Afrin

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict