Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has launched an anti-corruption drive in his country, is the one who paid as much as $450.3 million for the Leonardo da Vinci portrait of Jesus Christ. The crown prince, who is known by his initials MBS, has been identified as the purchaser of the painting, a US intelligence report has claimed. The painting, Salvator Mundi, is about 500 years old.The US has reportedly been watching activities of 32-year-old, who is trying to project himself as the one who is determined to root out corruption from the kingdom.
According to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and leading expert on Saudi Arabian politics, the image of the crown prince spending the huge amount of money to buy a painting when he’s supposed to be leading an anti-corruption drive is astonishing. Last month, Christie’s held an auction, which was won by Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed, a relative of the crown prince, a person familiar with Middle East art world and familiar with the purchase said.
He added that even as Prince Bader was the winner, he was a proxy for the crown prince. It is been just about a year that Prince Bader has emerged in the auction arena, winning works from a number of major houses. Even as it is not clear as to which pieces he won in bidding, those who know of the matter say they believe Prince Bader was not buying for himself. It is quite common that collectors often select an agent to line up paperwork and do bidding on artworks.Officials in the US intelligence believe that Prince Bader may have been named as the buyer on paper, but Prince Mohammed is the ultimate buyer.
Earlier too, Prince Bader has collaborated with the crown prince on business ventures and charitable purposes. With this purchase, the crown prince has made his debut in the art world. He is now among shortlist of wealthy newcomers who are ready to pay more than $100 million for artwork.