Disputed Da Vinci painting shows up on Saudi crown prince’s superyacht

A Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece, bought for a cool $450 million in 2017, allegedly on behalf of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has turned up on a massive yacht owned by the prince himself.

The mysterious auction was conducted by telephone and Christie’s didn’t confirm the buyer’s identity — but later, the ‘Salvator Mundi’ was “whisked away in the middle of the night on MBS’ plane” and relocated to his yacht, the Serene, two unnamed sources told the website Artnet.com.

The sources also said that the painting had been paid for, despite rumors circulating in the art world that the bill had only been partially settled.

The painting, which was expected to be exhibited at the Louvre in France later this year, disappeared after suspicions were raised that the work had come from “the workshop” of Da Vinci and may not have been painted by the artist himself — something which its new guardians knew could downgrade its value significantly.

The superyacht in question was originally owned by Russian tycoon Yuri Shefler, but was sold (reportedly on the spot) to MBS for $500 million in 2016 — not before having been rented out to Bill Gates for $5 million a week, however. Much like the yacht, the painting was also previously owned by a Russian billionaire, who bought it for a measly $127.5 million in 2013.

Floating around at sea might not be the most appropriate location for an artistic masterpiece, but it looks like that is where the ‘Salvator Mundi’ is set to stay for the foreseeable future. At least until the Saudis open a new cultural hub in the country’s Al-Ula region, Artnet said.

As of May 26, the Serene was located in the Red Sea off the coast of Egyptian resort town Sharm el-Sheikh, according to Bloomberg.

The ‘Salvator Mundi’ dates from around 1500 and shows Christ dressed in Renaissance-style robes with his right hand raised in blessing and carrying a crystal sphere in his left hand.