Mundi buyer was a Saudi prince

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The mystery buyer for the iconic painting titled "Salvator Mundi" that was sold last month at auction house Christie's in New York is Saudi royal Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, according to the New York Times. As he and King Salman have also suspiciously appointed Prince Bader to head up the Saudi Research and Marketing Group and another government commission, all this only seems to make Prince Bader's sources of income even murkier-and particularly his motivations in making such a public display of his mysterious wealth on an item that may cause some cultural conflicts in his country.

Prince Bader has no history as a major art collector but is a friend and associate of Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Times said.

The winning bid in the November 15 auction at Christie's in NY was made anonymously by phone using a Christie's representative. But according to USA intelligence reports, Bader bought it on behalf of the crown prince, who is a distant relative.

"The image of the crown prince spending that much money to buy a painting when he's supposed to be leading an anti-corruption drive is staggering", Bruce Riedel, ex-CIA officer and leading expert on Saudi politics told the WSJ.

The identity of the buyer became something of a parlor game.

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The work - known as Salvator Mundi (Saviour of the World) by Leonardo da Vinci - is is heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the museum has said.

But Prince Mohammed, whom the Times describes as King Salman's favored son and key adviser, has himself been criticized for his spending habits, including impulsively spending half a billion dollars on a yacht a year ago while at the same time slashing capital spending by 71 percent. At that time he put down a $100 million deposit to qualify for bidding.

Bader is one of more than 5,000 princes in Saudi Arabia. In a Tweet yesterday, the museum confirmed that it's getting the painting. Salvator Mundi portrays Jesus holding an orb in his left hand while raising his right.

The Journal says the painting was offered to the royal family in Qatar - Saudi Arabia's regional rival - in 2011 for a mere $80 million.

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