Prince Bader, the named buyer, has no publicly known source of wealth that would enable him to make such an expensive purchase. Nor does he have any public history as a major art collector.
But Prince Bader is a longtime friend of the crown prince, and he appears to have acted as an agent for him on at least one previous occasion, in the commission of an elaborate resort complex for a half-dozen princes in Prince Mohammed’s immediate family.
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Prince Mohammed also put Prince Bader in charge of a Saudi media company that has traditionally been controlled by the Salman branch of the royal family. And this year, the crown prince’s father, King Salman, named Prince Bader to run a commission to develop the area around an archaeological site under a plan by the crown prince, who is chairman of the commission.
Christie’s, the auction house that handled the sale, did not disclose the name of the buyer of “Salvator Mundi,” but documents related to the sale that were reviewed by The Times identified the purchaser as Prince Bader. While The Times was awaiting comment from Prince Bader or the Saudi Embassy in Washington on Wednesday, the newly opened branch of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, announced that it expected to receive the painting.
The Louvre has not disclosed whether it will receive the painting as a gift, a loan or a rental. The crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, is a close ally of the Saudi crown prince.