Yet the identity of the successful telephone bidder has yet to be revealed, sparking intense speculation about the painting’s new owner.
A spokeswoman for Christie’s offered her congratulations to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, telling CNN that she was “delighted that the piece is going to be on view in public.” But the auction house would not confirm whether the museum was behind the purchase.
A major attraction
In a 30-year deal worth a reported €1 billion ($1.18 billion), the French Louvre assists with exhibition management, offers advice and lends artworks to its Middle Eastern franchise. The new museum currently houses a permanent collection of 600 artworks, with a further 300 on loan from Paris — among them another Leonardo painting, “La Belle Ferronnière.”
The incredible story behind the new Louvre Abu Dhabi
But “Salvator Mundi” is set to be the museum’s biggest attraction. Even before becoming the world’s most expensive painting, it drew huge crowds during pre-auction viewings in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.
Why all eyes are on the Louvre Abu Dhabi
The 26-inch-tall painting, which was created at around the same time as the “Mona Lisa,” depicts Jesus in Renaissance-style clothing. Originally commissioned by Louis XII of France, the artwork seemingly disappeared in the late 18th century.
Upon re-emerging at auction in 1958, it was dismissed as a copy and sold for just £45 ($60). The painting was subsequently acquired by a group of art dealers for less than $10,000 in 2005. It was restored and authenticated, before being sold to its most recent owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, for $127.5 million.