Promoted as an encyclopedic museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to much fanfare last month, and now it appears to have secured a work that is sure to attract tourists from all over the world.
Media reports say it was purchased by a Saudi prince.
However, yesterday sources in the country suggested he was buying on the behalf of the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism announced this week that it has acquired Leonardo da Vinci's painting and that it will go on display at Louvre Abu Dhabi.
"Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi sold for a record US$450.3 million at auction in November".
A UAE government official confirmed the painting belonged to the Abu Dhabi government and would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The New York Times reported that the painting had been purchased by a Saudi prince called Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a friend and associate of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, citing documents it reviewed.
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The 500-year-old painting of Christ is believed to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci. In the span of just three days, two princes and an emirate have been named as either buyers, acquirers or proxy purchasers - depending on whom you believe.
In a 30-year deal worth a reported €1 billion ($1.18 billion), the French Louvre assists with exhibition management, offers advice and lends artworks to its Middle Eastern franchise. But on Friday, Saudi Arabia's embassy weighed in.
The museum opened with about 600 pieces including items from early Mesopotamia.
New York City collects sales tax on even the smallest items, but it probably won't collect a cent in taxes on a almost half billion dollar painting by Leonardo da Vinci. The seller was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who purchased it for $127.5 million in 2013.
Perhaps that explains why the Saudi embassy, in an e-mail to reporters, said: "In light of the erroneous reports on the da Vinci painting purchase, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has issued a statement to set the record straight".