In 2017, Salvator Mundi, an oil on wood painting of Jesus Christ, attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, sold for a staggering $450 million and subsequently disappeared from view.
It later transpired its buyer was little-known Saudi Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, most likely at the behest of his friend and ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – possibly buying it for a planned cultural hub in the kingdom’s Al-Ula region.
The celebrated painting was expected to be exhibited at the Louvre in 2019 as part of a Leonardo da Vinci retrospective celebrating 500 years since his death, but failed to materialize – likely due to the museum’s refusal to exhibit it alongside the Mona Lisa, as had been requested by the Crown Prince.
In 2019, Artnet.com reported that the painting was adorning a wall in the Saudi prince’s superyacht Serene, somewhere in the Red Sea. It has not been seen in public since 2017.
Experts at the Louvre in Paris have attributed the work to Da Vinci’s workshop, rather than to the artist himself, meaning its previous bloated sale value may have been spectacularly over-priced.
“The Lost Leonardo”, a new documentary by the Danish filmmaker Andreas Koefoed (currently in select cinemas), follows the unlikely history of the painting, and its baffling leaps in value from a little over $1,000 in 2005 to $450 million 12 years later.
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