Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi would be on the yacht of Saudi Arabia’s heir to the throne

The most expensive painting of history, the “Salvator Mundi,” whose tracks had mysteriously been lost after a resounding Christie’s auction  in 2017 in New York, would have ended up on a luxurious 134-metre mega-yacht. According to the website ArtNet.com that cites two unidentified sources “involved in the transaction”, the painting, attributed with many doubts to Leonardo Da Vinci, has arrived on the yacht “Serene”, property of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Another Saudi prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, would have purchased the painting on behalf of Salman for the stratospheric amount of  450 million dollars.

Mohammed bin Salman, known colloquially as MbS, is a member of the Al Saud royal family, first deputy prime minister and minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia. On June 21, 2017, he’s been nominated heir by his father, king Salman, and, as the crown prince, he’s the first in the line of succession to the Saudi Arabia’s throne. The youngest minister of Defense in the world, he’s also the president of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs.

The yacht of Riad’s strong man, built by Fincantieri and, in 2015, paid 500 million euros, was at the end of May in the Red Sea off Sharm el-Sheik’s coast, according to information gathered by the Bloomberg agency. It is not uncommon for a super-rich to decorate with fragile trophy-works of art their extra-luxury boat: the British businessman and Tottenham Hotspurs’s team owner, Joe Lewis, has hung a “Triptych” by Francis Bacon estimated 70 million dollars aboard his yacht “Aviva”.

ArtNet argues that the “Salvator Mundi” will remain aboard the “Serene” until the inauguration of a new museum center (a “Disneyland of art” in the web site definition) that the Saudis intend to create in the region of Al-Ula: the project would still be in its preliminary stages.

The painting was auctioned off by Christie’s in November 2017. A month after the auction, the UAE’s ministry of Culture announced that it would be exposed in the new Abu Dhabi Louvre designed by Jean Nouvel, but surprisingly last September the much awaited presentation had been cancelled. As the mystery grew, also the doubts about the attribution of the painting to Leonardo increased: according to Carmen Bambach of the Metropolitan Museum, one of the world’s leading experts of the Tuscan master, the painting would be the work of Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, an assistant, with only “a few tweaks” by the hand of Leonardo.

Bambach’s attribution, contained in a monumental four-volume essay  that will be released in the USA on June 25, is based on several factors, including that of having seen the painting during the last restoration in 2007: “I know how much it was damaged”. The art historian has challenged the thesis that the painting could have become part of king Charles the First’s collection: “There is no documentation until the mid-nineteenth century”

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