Why I Believe the Louvre Abu Dhabi Might Have Purchased Salvator Mundi – Dirk Vanduffel

By Dirk Vanduffel - Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Why I Believe the Louvre Abu Dhabi Might Have Purchased Salvator Mundi – Dirk Vanduffel

Last week, it was announced that all previous auction records had been smashed as Leonardo da Vinci’s infamous Salvator Mundi sold at a commercial auction at Christie’s for an eye-watering $400million. The piece is thought to have been painted in 1500, but was sold in the post-war and contemporary sale rather than the old masters sale as would have been expected. At this time, it is not known who was behind the purchase.

Since the purchase, critics and historians have been actively debating the possibility that the painting may not have been created by a different artist and may not actually be an authentic da Vinci. A popular theory has arisen around the idea that the piece could have been created by one of da Vinci’s students, most likely an artist called Giovanni Boltraffio. It is true that historians have been unable to provide conclusive proof to demonstrate that da Vinci was in fact the painter behind the work. 

Artdependence has a suspicion about who may have procured the piece, and what its future may entail. I believe that the piece has been purchased by the Louvre Abu Dhabi. We have reached out to the Louvre’s press department to ask them about the possibility that they are the new owners of Salvator Mundi, but were told that the gallery was unable to comment.

It is important to be clear that there is no official proof that the Louvre are behind the purchase. I am merely speculating, based on the following reasons:

  1. The Louvre Abu Dhabi may be one of the only institutions in the world to be able to raise this amount of money.
  2. The Louvre are likely to be keen to own their own da Vinci – one to rival Paris’ Mona Lisa.
  3. There has been a lot of speculation about the authenticity of Salvator Mundi. It feels unlikely that a private collector would take on this level of risk.
  4. The Louvre Abu Dhabi spend vast amounts of money on borrowing works of art, which can be expensive. It was always likely that they would look to start their own collection of art works at some stage.
  5. At this cost and with the reputation the piece has gathered, it is not a piece that is likely to have been bought to be kept, hidden away in a private collection.
  6. Private purchasers would find it very difficult to get insurance on a work of such importance.
  7. The work is already so famous that it is likely to attract many visitors from around the world.
  8. The Louvre would be the obvious choice to display a new da Vinci.

The mystery will live on for a little while yet, but I will be watching with anticipation when the buyer’s identity is finally revealed. The Louvre Abu Dhabi would make a fantastic home for the infamous painting. I wish the new owners well, whoever they may be.

Image above: A computer-generated image of the Louvre Abu Dhabi

Dirk defines the overall policy of ArtDependence Magazine, in addition to conducting interviews. He specializes in valuation and auctioning.

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Luc Tuymans, Flemish Village 1995.  Collection MuHKA, Antwerp

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