Stolen, Lost, Destroyed? What has happened to the World’s Most Expensive Painting?

The so-called last Da Vinci has been missing for a year. Where has it gone?

When Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi was sold for over $450 million to a mystery buyer in 2017 it became the world’s most expensive painting making global headlines.

As rumours circulated about the buyer’s identity the government of the UAE finally announced it had purchased and would display the Salvator Mundi in The Louvre Abu Dhabi after a grand unveiling in September 2018.

The unveiling, however, never happened.

Now, the governments of the UAE and Saudi Arabia refuse to discuss the staggering purchase and with many experts doubting the work is even authentic its true owner, whereabouts and artist are shrouded in mystery.

The story behind the near half a billion-dollar artwork is becoming amongst the most controversial and mysterious in the history of art.

For almost a year nobody admitted knowing the location of this enigmatic renaissance painting.

ArtNet’s sources reported that “the work was whisked away in the middle of the night on MBS’s plane and relocated to his yacht".

MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman) is the crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, thought to be in control of the House of Saud’s $1.4 trillion fortune.

The veracity of these reports is unproven but with MBS’s close ties to the UAE and vast wealth ArtNet’s story makes sense.

If MBS does have the painting hidden on a superyacht in Egypt, as reported, that wasn’t meant to be the plan.

Many wonder why the Louvre Abu Dhabi never displayed the painting, as originally stated.

Perhaps, some have claimed, because it has become apparent the work wasn’t painted by Leonardo and shouldn’t have commanded such a dramatic fee.

When the work was sold in London in 1958 by Sotheby’s it sold for a mere £45 (about $1,100 today) because it was credited to Boltraffio.

Experts hired by Christie’s to attribute the work to Leonardo have now claimed their analysis has been misconstrued by the auction house.

Dr Carmen Bambach, curator at the Metroplitan Museum of Art, declared Christie’s use of her scholarship to suggest Leonardo painted the Salvator Mundi “is not representative of my opinion". 

So many questions remain about this extraordinary work of art: who owns the world’s most expensive painting? Where is it? Who painted it? Will we ever see it again?

Only a handful of very wealthy and powerful people know the answers, the rest of us must wait and hope this five-hundred-year-old masterpiece re-emerges.


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