After Saudi Arabia’s acquisition of a multimillion dollar painting, a new French documentary suggests that the art may be a fake.
A 2017 bidding war at Christie’s auction house in New York saw an anonymous buyer snatch up Leonard Da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ for around $450 million, making it the most expensive painting in the world.
The New York Times later revealed that the buyer was none other than Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bader bin Abdullah, who had purchased the painting on behalf of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.
However, MBS was not the only person with his eye on the multimillion dollar art-piece. Later details also revealed UAE’s Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) sent a representative in an attempt to secure ‘Salvator Mundi’ to be placed in the newly-established $1 billion Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.
The steep price tag has been attributed to the artwork’s rarity. Fewer than 20 paintings in existence, all of which are part of museum collections, are said to be created by the Italian renaissance artist.
However, rumours from the royal palaces said that neither MBS nor MBZ knew the other was bidding, but that both parties feared losing the auction to representatives from the Qatar and continued to raise the price to outbid Doha.
Meanwhile, British media reported that Qatar was never a participant at the 2017 Christie’s bid for the painting and had no interest in purchasing the artwork. Doha was allegedly offered the painting a year earlier for $80 million but rejected.
Speculations about the painting first emerged after its unveiling at the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum was cancelled. Instead, it was reported that the painting sat in MBS’s super-yacht.
A new French documentary set to air on TV next week suggests that MBS had pressed the Louvre museum in France to hide a humiliating fact – that scientific analysis revealed the painting was completed in Da Vinci’s workshop, but not by Da Vinci himself.
“The Savior for Sale,” by French filmmaker Antoine Vitkine, reveals the controversy surrounding the painting of Jesus Christ, as well its acquisition by the Saudi royal.
It details how MBS pressured the Louvre Museum in Paris by loaning the museum the ‘Salvator Mundi’ for a 2019 exhibition on the condition that it be presented as 100% authentically by Da Vinci.
However, President Emmanuel Macron rejected the Saudi demand and the French museum never went ahead with exhibiting the painting.
The French documentary is set to air on television next week.