LONDON – Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, acting as friend and distant cousin, was the real buyer behind the purchase of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" for a record of $ 450.3 million, US officials and an Arab familiar with the agreement said Thursday.
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the purchase was executed in the name of Prince Bader bin Adbullah bin Mohammed Bin Farhan al-Saud, and many familiar with the operations of the Saudi royal family assumed that Crown Prince Mohammed, a Prince Bader's friend, was financing the offer. The sale price more than doubled the previous record of a sale of art in an auction, $ 179.4 million for a Picasso.
Prince Bader, in a statement published on Thursday in a Saudi newspaper owned by a company he directs, said he had "read with was a big surprise the report published about me in the New York Times newspaper and the strange information and inaccurate that it contained. "His statement did not mention the painting or the address if he had bought it.
An official from the Embassy of Arabia in Washington declined to comment on Thursday.
Making a purchase of record art in his own name could be uncomfortable for the crown prince because he is leading a vigorous campaign against corruption and personal enrichment by the kingdom's elite, including some of his royal cousins.
Less than two weeks before the painting auction, on November 15, Prince Mohammed ordered the extrajudicial detention of at least 200 of the kingdom's wealthiest businessmen, officials and princes in a Ritz Carlton hotel. He has been pushing them to sign hundreds of billions of dollars in assets in agreements to avoid prosecution and ensure their freedom.
Leonardo's "Salvator Mundi" can also offend sensitivities and violate the rules of the Muslim ultraconservative kingdom. The painting of the Renaissance era is a reverential representation of Jesus Christ, and Muslims believe that Jesus is not the savior but a prophet. Saudi clerics also teach that Islam prohibits any work of art that represents a human being, and that the representation of any of the prophets is especially forbidden.
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