Salvator Mundi Enigma Update: Jesus Painting Not to Hang in Mohammad Bin Salman's Yacht

Once sold for mere $57, Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi was bought for $450 million in an auction in 2017.

Salvator Mundi
Leonardo Da Vinci's painting Salvator Mundi likely to be displayed in Saudi museum. Wikimedia Commons/Wikipedia

The mystery surrounding the missing Salvator Mundi painting by Leonardo Da Vinci has at last been solved. The world's most expensive painting will be soon available for public display as Saudi Arabia plans to build a museum to display the painting.

The Wall Street Journal quoted Saudi Deputy Minister of Culture Hamid Bin Mohammed Fayez saying that the kingdom plans to build a museum to display the Salvator Mundi painting, which it brought three years ago. The painting was bought at an auction in New York for a whopping amount of $450 million. But the painting was not publicly displayed since the day of the auction in November 2017, giving rise to theories that it had gone missing.

Salvator Mundi depicts Jesus Christ with a light-skinned complexion, orange-hued curled locks and holding a crystal ball in one hand while giving the sign of a blessing with the other hand.

Painting Goes Missing After Auction

However, since the day it was auctioned at Christie's in New York, the whereabouts of the painting were not known and there were only speculations about the person who had made the purchase. It was reported that the bid was made by a Saudi prince, Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. But soon the Saudi Embassy in Washington issued a clarification that the painting was bought by Prince Badr on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

However, since then the painting was not seen anywhere on public display. Louvre Abu Dhabi in fact had made an announcement in 2019 that it will display the Salvator Mundi painting in its museum, but later postponed the unveiling of the painting without giving any explanation. There were theories that the 500-year-old painting was kept in secret storage in Geneva, Switzerland, which houses more than a million artworks whose owners eyed evading tax.

But in June 2019, another theory started making the rounds that the Salvator Mundi Painting was kept in the $810-million luxury yacht owned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The report was published on Artnet.

Salvator Mundi Sold For $57?

Reports claim that in the 1950s the Salvator Mundi painting was dubbed as a copy. It was said that Da Vinci's pupils had painted it and it was sold for a mere $57. It was also said that the painting was much in demand between 1500 and 1900 when it circulated among many European royals for centuries. But one particular restoration is said to have made the painting almost unrecognizable, leading to a steep fall in its price during auctions.

But before it was sold at Christies in 2017, it was said to have been restored by conservator Dianne Modestini. The mystery around the painting being a copy of Da Vinci's original work is not solved yet. But with Saudi Arabia's decision to put it up in the museum, it is at least clear where the painting is currently.