Leonardo's "Salvator Mundi" Is Headed to the Louvre Abu Dhabi

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The newly-opened museum made the announcement on Twitter, without specifying whether it had bought the painting at auction this month.

News that the painting will turn up at the Louvre Abu Dhabi does not resolve the mystery surrounding the identity of the buyer or buyers, though some had speculated that it was acquired by an Emirati museum or collector.

We now know that the Louvre Abu Dhabi is going to exhibit Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", which sold last month in a Christie's Contemporary sale in NY for a cool $450 million. The museum pays Paris hundreds of millions of dollars for this as well as for the use of the Louvre name and managerial advice.

"Congratulations", Christie's said in a tweeted reply to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche reported that two investment firms were behind the purchase as part of a financial arrangement involving several museums. Buyers from the Middle East and Asia have been snapping up masterpieces to fill regional museums - and pushing prices ever higher.

The sale more than doubled the previous record of $179.4m paid for Pablo Picasso's The Women of Algiers (Version O) in 2015, also in NY.

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on November 8 in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, who described the new museum as a "bridge between civilizations".

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence. As one of the seven sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates, and the one with the largest oil reserves, Abu Dhabi is entwined in a Saudi Arabian-led dispute with neighboring Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism.

The museum opened with some 600 pieces including items from early Mesopotamia. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organizes exhibitions in return for one billion euros ($1.16 billion).

Believed to be the last Da Vinci in private hands, "Salvator Mundi" commanded four times what Christie's had projected even as skeptics questioned its authenticity.

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then acquired in 2005 by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $US10,000.

Its latest sale was initiated by Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, the boss of football club AS Monaco. Rybolovlev bought it in 2013 for $127.5 million from art dealer Yves Bouvier along with some other canvases.

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