"Salvator Mundi": where has the most expensive work of art in the world gone?

For Martin Kemp, art historian from Oxford, the “Salavator Mundi” is “Leonardo's strongest claim on the elusive character of the divine”.

Chis work attributed to Leonardo da Vinci has not finished shedding ink. Today, the whole world is looking for the trace of this painting, bought in 2017 for 450,3 million dollars. The most expensive work ever sold at auction was to be exhibited at Louvre Abu Dhabi last September. The unveiling of the work had been canceled without explanation. Since then, experts have been on the alert.

It must be said that rare are the works which have such an incredible history. Painted in the 1500s, the "Salvator Mundi" was part of the collection of King Charles I of England. It then disappeared until the end of the 1th century, then was found in the collection of a British industrialist. In 18, the work was attributed to one of Leonardo da Vinci's disciples, and sold for $ 1958. In 1350, a new auction in New York. It is then entrusted to Professor Modestini for restoration. The work is now attributed to Leonardo da Vinci himself. In 2005, the National Gallery in London exhibited it. In 2011, it was bought by a Russian billionaire for $ 2013 million. In a new auction, it will start at $ 127,5 million. And since then, we have lost track of it.

The real buyer had remained anonymous. It was Prince Bader bin Abdallah bin Mohammed Ben Farban al-Saoud who had been the link between Christie's and the buyer, a member of a distant branch of the Saudi royal family, but above all a close friend of the crown prince. The supposed buyer would therefore be the sovereign of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.

Since the cancellation last September of the unveiling of the work, the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture has not communicated on this subject. Privately, museum staff reportedly told the New York Times that he has no knowledge of where the painting might be. In Paris, however, it is hoped that the work will be at the Louvre next fall to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death.

Since the assumptions multiply. If some think that the purchaser does not want to expose the work to analyzes and critics so that the attribution of the artist is no longer questioned, others, like the art critic James Stevenson , wonder about the religious track.

“Isn't it against conservative Muslim dogma to have an image of one of the prophets, that is, Jesus? How does Salvatore Mundi end up in Saudi Arabia or the UAE? Could the "disappearance" be a religious affair? "

MC

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