Saudi prince revealed as buyer of $450mn Da Vinci painting

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A wealthy Saudi prince was identified last night as the mysterious buyer of the world's most expensive painting.

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

"The word "masterpiece" barely begins to convey the rarity, importance and sublime beauty of Leonardo's painting", said Alan Wintermute from Christie's, the auction house that conducted the sale.

Despite Prince Bader's relatively obscure status, he is seen as a close friend of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and has become more prominent in the kingdom since the crown prince's ascension.

The newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi made the announcement on Wednesday. The new museum now houses a permanent collection of 600 artworks, with a further 300 on loan from Paris - among them another Leonardo painting, "La Belle Ferronnière".

Museumgoers will be able to view the painting at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a United Arab Emirates franchise of the Paris museum, Christie's Auction House told Bloomberg. The buyer's identity, reported by the New York Times this evening, was discovered in the midst of an investigation into Saudi Arabia's elite class, including Prince Bader's family and associates, who have been criticized for their showy displays of wealth. French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche earlier reported that two investment firms had purchased the painting in the hope of lending it to museums.

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The sale more than doubled the previous record of $179.4 million paid for Pablo Picasso's 'The Women of Algiers (Version O)' in 2015, also in NY.

Featuring a vast silver-toned dome, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, drawing inspiration from Arab design and evoking both an open desert and the sea. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organises exhibitions in return for one billion euros ($1.16bn).

Salvatore Mundi was first recorded in the Royal collection of King Charles I (1600-1649), and thought to have hung in the private chambers of Henrietta Maria - the wife of King Charles I - in her palace in Greenwich, and was later in the collection of Charles II.

It is one of fewer than 20 paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master's own hand, according to Christie's. Da Vinci's "La Belle Ferronnière" is on loan there from the Louvre in Paris.

Upon re-emerging at auction in 1958, it was dismissed as a copy and sold for just £45 ($60).

The work was owned by Russian Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who reportedly bought the oil painting for a staggering $127.5 million in 2013.

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