Saudi Arabia's power-hungry crown prince sent a proxy to buy a $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting

  • Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind the purchase of most expensive painting ever sold at auction.
  • A Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ sold for $US450 million.
  • Crown Prince Mohammed reportedly used another Saudi prince as a proxy for the purchase.

Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is reportedly behind the purchase of the most expensive painting ever sold at auction, according to The Wall Street Journal.

US government intelligence sources and a Saudi art-world figure all confirmed to The Journal that Crown Prince Mohammed was the buyer of a $US450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ.

Crown Prince Mohammed is widely seen to be the muscle behind the recent anti-corruption purge, as he consolidates power in a way Saudi Arabia hasn’t seen in decades. Many of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful people were arrested and jailed last month.

Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud was identified as the mystery buyer in a New York Times report published Wednesday, but is now reported to be a proxy for the crown prince. US intelligence reports have been closely tracking Prince Mohammed’s activities, according to The Journal, and identified him as the painting’s buyer.

The nature of the painting – a rendition of Christ – and the timing of the purchase – less than two weeks after the corruption purge – calls into question whether the crown prince has been selectively targeting people in the crackdown, The Times reported.

Here is the painting, which will be featured at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates:

Prince Bader, part of a distant branch of the wealthy royal family, is reportedly friends and business partners with Crown Prince Mohammed.

The Saudi art-world figure told The Journal that Prince Bader “is a proxy” for Prince Mohammed.

“It is a fact that this deal was done via a proxy,” the person said.

David Choi contributed reporting to this article.

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