Abu Dhabi Identified As Buyer Of $450m Da Vinci Salvator Mundi

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At Christie's Da Vinci auction, the salesroom was full of millionaires and billionaires, including Point72 Asset Management's Steve Cohen, Blackstone Group LP's Tom Hill, who collects Old Master works, and philanthropist Eli Broad. He now serves as chairman of the Riyadh-based Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which publishes 15 magazines and newspapers, including the Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

Prince Bader reportedly claimed real estate was his main source of finance.

Alex Rotter, the auction house's co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art in the Americas, represented the anonymous buyer of the Da Vinci and placed the winning bid after a spellbinding 19-minute contest that saw offers at US$200 million, US$300 million and US$350 million fall short.

"Salvator Mundi", which depicts Jesus holding a crystal orb in his left hand and raising his right in blessing, is one of some 16 known surviving works painted by da Vinci.

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Following the crown prince's quick rise to power, he promoted Prince Bader within the kingdom. The pair worked together on a resort complex for members of the ruling Salman branch of the royal family. However, Prince Bader attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time or along with Prince Mohammed. When King Salman appointed Prince Mohammed to overlook most of the governmental activities, Prince Bader was asked to take over high positions by the prince.

Just to qualify as a bidder for the last privately-owned da Vinci in the world, Prince Bader had to jump through several hoops.

He was appointed by Prince Mohammed as the governor of a newly formed commission to develop a tourist destination project led by Prince Mohammed.

Bader is one of more than 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia. It is known that Prince has been doing business in the field of waste recycling, now he's 32.

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The announcement only partially resolves the mystery over the painting's sale last month in NY for $450.3m, with auction house Christie's steadfastly declining to identify the buyer.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi - a franchise of the Paris original - is a symbol of the oil-rich sheikhdom's drive to boost its "soft power" credentials.

Christie's has steadfastly declined to say who bought the artwork, but confirmed its destination on Wednesday, at least partly solving the mystery.

Da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence.

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