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

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The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on 8 November in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron, who described it as a "bridge between civilisations".

It is one of fewer than 20 authenticated da Vinci paintings in existence.

We now know that the Louvre Abu Dhabi is going to exhibit Leonardo Da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", which sold last month in a Christie's Contemporary sale in NY for a cool $450 million.

The Salvator Mundi ("Saviour of the World") has been called ethereal, mysterious, spooky and touted as a long-lost painting by the Renaissance master.

"We are pleased that the picture will be exhibited again", said Christie's spokesperson.

Alex Rotter, the auction house's co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art in the Americas, represented the anonymous buyer of the Da Vinci and placed the winning bid after a spellbinding 19-minute contest that saw offers at $200 million, $300 million and $350 million fall short.

The first works on loan from the Louvre in Paris include another painting by Da Vinci: La Belle Ferronniere, one of his portraits of women.

The New York Times yesterday claimed to have seen documents linking the sale to a low-profile Saudi prince with no record of buying major artworks.

The highest known sale price for any artwork had been $US300 million, for Willem de Kooning's painting, Interchange.

Salvator Mundi's path from Leonardo's workshop to the auction block at Christie's was not smooth. At that time it was attributed to a Leonardo disciple, rather than to the master himself.

It had sold for a mere £45 pounds in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005.

It was badly damaged and partly painted-over.

It then disappeared until 1900 when it was acquired by Sir Charles Robinson as a work by Leonardo's follower, Bernardino Luini, for the Cook Collection, Doughty House, Richmond.

Da Vinci was born in the Republic of Florence, in present-day Italy, in 1452 and died in France in 1519.

The painting was later sold by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, who bought it in 2013 for $US127.5 million in a private sale that became the subject of a continuing lawsuit. Even before becoming the world's most expensive painting, it drew huge crowds during pre-auction viewings in London, Hong Kong and San Francisco.

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