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Is a $450m Leonardo da Vinci painting hanging on a Saudi prince’s yacht walls?

PortandTerminal.com, November 9, 2019

There is growing speculation that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s $458 million yacht “The Serene” is now home for an original Leonardo da Vinci painting that sold in 2017 at auction for $450 million.

PARIS, FRANCE – In 2017, the only remaining painting by Italian Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci held in a private collection, Salvator Mundi, was sold at auction for $450 million dollars by Christie’s in New York. The painting was purchased by Prince Badr bin Abdullah, the Minister of Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Salvator Mundi was sold at Christie’s in New York for $450 million, a record for the most ever paid for a painting

Soon after the painting’s sale, it essentially “vanished” declared numerous newspapers. Initially, at the time of its sale, the painting had been reported to be a prize that had been snapped up by the new “Louvre Abu Dhabi” as a showpiece to help the new museum gain traction and press. The painting never showed up there though.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi. Nice looking place except it’s missing a Leonardo da Vinci painting

After that, theories about its new location ranged from the sensible (it is in storage in Switzerland) to the seemingly outlandish: it is on a yacht owned by the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Experts in the art world now believe that the outlandish ideas about the painting’s location may be right.

According to a reporter at Artnet, Mohammed bin Salman “whisked away [the painting] in the middle of the night on [his] plane and relocated it to his yacht, the Serene.”

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s 440-foot yacht “The Serene” was purchased in 2015 for $458 million dollars

The suggestion was widely reported in the mainstream media and simultaneously dismissed by dubious art world experts at the time. Nobody would keep a painting that valuable at sea, no matter how well-provisioned the yacht or how well guarded.

An interior lounge area onboard the Serene. Not bad. All it’s missing is a $450 million dollar painting by Leonardo da Vinci to tie the whole look together

Reporters at Artnet.com didn’t let the story go and now believe that yes, the painting is in-fact hanging on the wall of MBS’s yacht The Serene. They are now suggesting based upon the movements of the yacht in the past days that it may, in fact, be on it’s way to Paris right now where a major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci is underway now at The Louvre.

The Louvre in Paris, France is hosting a major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s work from October 24, 2019 – February 24, 2019

The following is Artnet’s summary of what they have learned about the possible whereabouts of the painting based upon the movements of The Serene:

On 25 October, the day after the public opening of the Louvre’s Leonardo exhibition, the Serene abruptly departed the Red Sea and headed north towards the Suez Canal. It navigated through the passage and turned west, crossing the Mediterranean. After passing through the Strait of Gibraltar, it turned north, navigating past Portugal before making a brief stop in Spain. Then, it continued its journey north, passing past France before turning east into the English Channel. And finally, yesterday, the Serene was scheduled to dock at the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands, a four-and-a-half-hour journey from Paris, at 8pm according to a route forecast from MarineTraffic.com (at the time of publication, an updated position report was not yet available).

Why would a superyacht, which usually moves from one warm-weather, billionaire’s playground to the next, suddenly circumnavigate Europe and head into the North Sea? Will the Salvator Mundi be unloaded today and transported to the Louvre? Could Schachter have been right all along?

(EDITOR: Kenny Schachter at Artworld has championed the idea that the painting is on The Serene)

If the Salvator Mundi appears in Paris in the next week we may deduce so. If not, consider this just one more speculative story fuelling the myth surrounding the most talked about Old Master painting of our times.

Obviously, the Louvre declined to comment.

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi”

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” (c. 1500)

Salvator Mundi is a painting by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci dated to c. 1500. Long thought to be a copy of a lost original veiled with overpainting, it was rediscovered, restored, and included in a major Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery, London, in 2011–12.

The painting was sold at auction for $450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie’s in New York to Prince Badr bin Abdullah, setting a new record for most expensive painting ever sold at public auction.

Some believe that the Prince may have been a stand-in bidder for his close ally and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the de facto ruler of the Kingdom.

“Salvator Mundi” is one of fewer than 20 known works by Leonardo da Vinci and was the only one to remain in a private collection.

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