Abu Dhabi authorities 'acquired' $450 mn Da Vinci: museum

Abu Dhabi (AFP) –


The Louvre Abu Dhabi said Friday that local Emirati authorities had "acquired" a $450-million painting by Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci, as reports swirled about the original source of funding.

"Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi," the museum said in tweets in both English and Arabic.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman -- currently on an anti-corruption drive at home -- put up the funds for the staggering purchase.

The young crown prince, often referred to by his initials MBS, used an intermediary to buy the much-sought-after painting of Christ, the paper reported, citing US intelligence and other unnamed sources.

The latest tweets by the museum, which had already announced the Da Vinci was "coming" to Abu Dhabi, did not explicitly contradict that report.

The landmark acquisition comes shortly after the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia announced the formation of a new military and economic committee, separate from the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In recent years, Qatar has been the biggest player in the Gulf art world, but in June, Saudi Arabia and some of its allies broke off diplomatic and trade relations with Doha, which they accuse of supporting extremist movements.

"Salvator Mundi" -- dated to around 1500 -- is the last known Da Vinci in the hands of a private collector. It was long believed to be a copy but was finally authenticated about a dozen years ago.