Abu Dhabi authorities revealed as buyers of $450m 'Leonardo painting'

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Christie's says most scholars agree the painting is by Leonardo, though some critics have questioned the attribution and some say the extensive restoration muddies the work's authorship.

The 500-year-old painting of Christ is believed to be the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington, D.C., says that a painting by Leonardo da Vinci that sold for $450 million at an auction in NY was purchased by a member of the royal family on behalf of a museum in the United Arab Emirates.

But The New York Times reported that, according to documents it reviewed, the mystery buyer was a little-known Saudi prince.

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".

Auction house Christie's has also steadfastly declined to identify the buyer, whose purchase in NY for $450.3 million stunned the art world.

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At Christie's Da Vinci auction, the salesroom was full of millionaires and billionaires, including Point72 Asset Management's Steve Cohen, Blackstone Group LP's Tom Hill, who collects Old Master works, and philanthropist Eli Broad. The previous record was Pablo Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger, which sold for $179 million.

On Wednesday, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced that the record-breaking Da Vinci painting would be displayed there.

The first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France, The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened on November 8 in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron. Under a 30-year agreement, France provides expertise, lends works of art and organises exhibitions in return for one billion euros ($1.16bn).

The painting by the Italian Renaissance master grabbed headlines when it was sold for a record-breaking price at Christie's auction house in NY.

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.

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