The world’s most expensive artwork – Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece "Salvator Mundi" – has reportedly been installed on Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s superyacht, The Guardian reports.
The location of the painting has been a mystery since it was sold for a record $450m (£350m) at auction by Christie’s in New York in 2017. On Monday, Artnet, an art industry news service, reported that the 500-year-old painting was being kept on Prince Mohammed’s €500m (£440m) 134m yacht, Serene.
Artnet said “two principals involved in the transaction” had told its reporter that “the work was whisked away in the middle of the night on MBS’s plane and relocated to his yacht, the Serene”.
The "Salvator Mundi" (Latin for Saviour of the World), which has been at the centre of a storm of controversy over suggestions that it was painted by one of Leonardo’s assistants and not the man himself, had been due to go on display at a Middle East outpost of Paris’s Louvre gallery last September.
“Having spent so long undiscovered, this masterpiece is now our gift to the world,” Mohamed Khalifa al-Mubarak, the chairman of Abu Dhabi’s department of culture and tourism, said in June 2018. “We look forward to welcoming people from near and far to witness its beauty.”
However, just week’s before the scheduled unveiling on 18 September, the opening was postponed and has not been rescheduled.
The Saudi embassies in London and Washington did not respond to requests for comment on the painting’s whereabouts. A spokeswoman for Christie’s did not comment on the location of the painting or its provenance.
Earlier this month, one of the world’s leading experts on Leonardo criticised Christie’s for wrongly suggesting in its cataloguing of the Salvator Mundi that she was among scholars who had attributed the picture to the Renaissance master. Dr Carmen Bambach, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, told the Guardian: “That is not representative of my opinion.”