Muslim Prince Spends $450 Million On A Painting Of Jesus

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A friend of Saudi Arabia's powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was the mystery buyer of "Salvator Mundi", a painting of Christ by Leonardo Da Vinci that recently sold for a record $450 million.

A spokeswoman for Christie's would not comment on the identity of the buyer, but did confirm the painting would be displayed at the newly opened Louvre Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, a branch of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Louvre Abu Dhabi is a joint project between the French government and the city of Abu Dhabi, to which Saudi's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is a close ally. But intelligence officials say Bader was just a proxy for crown prince Mohammed.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region.

Bader is an unknown figure in the art collection circle. Pressed for more information, Prince Bader reportedly gave a terse reply, saying he was in the real estate business and was one of the country's 5,000 princes.

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He may be busy leading a crackdown on the alleged ill-gotten gains of his political rivals, but Saudi Arabia's Mohammed Bin Salman looks like he still has time for the finer things in life. Even then, Christie's lawyers remained suspicious, persisting in asking him where he got the money and what his relationship was with the Saudi ruler, King Salman. But the Times investigation found that he certainly owns more than property. As the Times points out, in July the king appointed Prince Bader as governor of a new commission led by Prince Mohammed and charged with developing the Al Ola region into a tourist destination. U.S. intelligence reports have been closely tracking Prince Mohammed's activities, according to The Journal, and identified him as the painting's buyer.

He is a co-founder of a large waste management company in Saudi Arabia that processes 7000 tons of waste per day.

"Salvator Mundi" - dated to around 1500 - is the last known Da Vinci in the hands of a private collector. Russian billionaire Dmitry E. Rybolovlev was the previous owner, who paid $127.5 million in 2013.

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