World’s Most Expensive Painting, Allegedly by Da Vinci, Could Reappear in the Louvre This Week

Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" sold for $450 million in 2017.
Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" sold for $450 million in 2017. (Image credit: Leonardo da Vinci)

The world's most expensive painting, which may or may not have been painted by Leondardo da Vinci, may or may not make an appearance at a new exhibition at Paris' Louvre this Thursday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), a French news agency. 

The painting, titled "Salvator Mundi," depicts Jesus holding a transparent globe in one hand and gesturing a blessing with the other. In 2017, the work of art sold for $450 million at a Christie's auction to an undisclosed buyer.

The painting's whereabouts since the auction is unknown. At first, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Saudi prince Badr bin Abdullah bought the painting for the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, but then the United Arab Emirates culture ministry announced that their country owned "Salvator Mundi" and that it was to go on display at the Louvre Abu Dhabi in September 2018, according to the AFP. It never did. 

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Prominent art dealer Kenny Schachter, citing two sources involved in the sale, told the AFP that the painting is making its rounds on bin Salman's yacht, the Serene.

The mystery around the painting's provenance is as big as the mystery of its location. There is a debate in the art world about whether da Vinci actually painted "Salvator Mundi" or it was  created by one of his apprentices. Those who claim it is not a da Vinci painting note that one of Jesus' fingers is badly painted and that the painting isn't mentioned in any of da Vinci's correspondence, according to the AFP.

Paris' Louvre has asked Abu Dhabi to loan the museum the painting for an upcoming da Vinci exhibition, but that request is still pending. Considering the mystery of the painting's whereabouts, it's unlikely, but not impossible, that "Salvator Mundi" will be at the Louvre's upcoming da Vinci exhibition, according to the AFP.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.