$450m 'Da Vinci portray' heads to Louvre Abu Dhabi

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The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C., says that a painting by Leonardo da Vinci that sold for $450 million at an auction in NY was purchased by a member of the royal family on behalf of a museum in the United Arab Emirates. Interestingly, Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism gave the prince a budget of $500 million to obtain the painting, which is nearly impossible to fathom as the painting which previously held the record for most expensive was Picasso's "Women of Algiers", which sold for $179 million.

The New York Times on Wednesday, citing documents it reviewed, identified the buyer as Saudi Arabia's Prince Bader Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Farhan Al Saud, whose country forbids the official worship of Christ or any other religion except Islam. Prince Bader is a friend of Prince Mohammed and acted on his behalf, placing the winning $450.3 million bid for the painting at Christie's last month. The purchase comes at an awkward time for the prince because he is leading a crackdown on corruption.

First, the painting portrays Jesus, whom many Muslims believe to be a prophet.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling.

A UAE government official confirmed the painting belonged to the Abu Dhabi government and would be put on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. By then, though, the painting's origin had been obscured due to overpainting and it was credited to da Vinci's follower Bernardino Luini.

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New York City collects sales tax on even the smallest items, but it probably won't collect a cent in taxes on a almost half billion dollar painting by Leonardo da Vinci. It sold for only 45 pounds or about US$125 today, CNN reported.

It is one of fewer than 20 paintings generally accepted as being from the Renaissance master's own hand, according to Christie's.

In 2013, a consortium of dealers including Simon, Parish and Warren Adelson sold Salvator Mundi for US$80 million to a company owned by a Swiss businessman and art dealer Yves Bouvier, Bloomberg reported.

The painting, which depicts Jesus Christ holding a glass ball in one hand, was sold at Christie's by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev on November 15.