Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has allegedly ‘lost’ the world’s most expensive painting, art academics and enthusiasts fear.
The painting, Salvator Mundi by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci shows Jesus in Renaissance dress, giving a benediction with his right hand raised whilst holding a transparent rock crystal orb in his left hand.
It was dubbed the most expensive painting in the world last year after it was purchased by Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS, for $450.3 million.
MbS bought the painting on 15 November 2017 with the intention to display it at Louvre Abu Dhabi, but it has not been seen in public since.
“Nobody outside the immediate Arab hierarchy knows where it is,” Professor Martin Kemp told The Times. The Da Vinci scholar first saw the painting in 2008 and helped “authenticate” it with his research.
The 500-year-old painting, initially thought to be a copy of Da Vinci’s artwork by his student Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio was bought for a mere £45 ($58) at an auction in 1958.
It wasn’t until 2011 that experts authenticated the painting as the original work of Da Vinci, prompting full restoration work.
The painting was taken to an unknown location after it was purchased by the crown prince. Art collector and conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, who resorted to contacting Louvre Abu Dhabi to ask for the whereabouts of the painting, received no response.
She expressed that the disappearance of the painting is a “cause for concern” considering it is unclear who is caring for the painting and how.
She became even more concerned on September 3 when Abu Dhabi tourism and culture authority said it was postponing the unveiling of Salvator Mundi, which was initially scheduled for September 18 and had been silent on the matter ever since.