Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Is True Buyer of Da Vinci, WSJ Reports

Report: Secret buyer of $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting revealed to be a Saudi prince

And even before the disclosure of the record-breaking purchase in a NY art auction by one of his associates, Prince Mohammed's extravagance had already raised eyebrows, most notably with the impulse purchase two years ago in the south of France of a Russian vodka titan's 440-foot yacht, for half a billion dollars.

Prince Bader only presented himself as a bidder on the painting at the very last minute, which, according to the Times, caused a scramble at Christie's to establish his identity and financial means-even after he put down a $100-million deposit.

But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's painting Salvator Mundi, which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show. His statement did not mention the painting or address whether he had bought it. However, Prince Bader attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time or along with Prince Mohammed. He has been pressuring them to sign over hundreds of billions of dollars in assets in deals to avoid prosecution and secure their freedom. He belongs to a remote branch of a royal family and he has never been known to be an art collector.

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Report: Secret buyer of $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting revealed to be a Saudi prince

Prince Bader, part of a distant branch of the wealthy royal family, is reportedly friends and business partners with Crown Prince Mohammed.

But Prince Mohammed, whom the Times describes as King Salman's favored son and key adviser, has himself been criticized for his spending habits, including impulsively spending half a billion dollars on a yacht previous year while at the same time slashing capital spending by 71 percent. It had been speculated, however, that the buyer might have hailed from the Middle East, particularly following posts on social media earlier today announcing that the painting was making its way to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Bader made the record-breaking offer for "Salvator Mundi" after 19 minutes of dueling with four other bidders at Christie's auction house in Manhattan on November 15. Over 600 objects and paintings have been loaned to the museum. Louvre Abu Dhabi is a joint project between the French government and the city of Abu Dhabi, to which Saudi's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is a close ally.

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