The Saudi embassy in Washington on Friday offered a new explanation for the record-breaking $450.3 million purchase last month of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, Salvator Mundi.
Saudi Prince Badr bin Farhan al-Saud had recently been rumored to have bought the painting, which the Prince's office denied.
"Salvator Mundi", Latin for "Savior of the World", is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Da Vinci known to exist and the only one in private hands.
It constitutes the highest price that was ever paid at the auction for any work of art, beating Willem de Kooning's Interchange, a painting that was sold for $303 million in 2015.
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People visit the Louvre Museum, during the public opening day, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017.
The New York Times yesterday claimed to have seen documents linking the sale to a low-profile Saudi prince with no record of buying major artworks. The sale price more than doubled the previous record for an art sale at auction, $179.4 million for a Picasso.
It only opened its doors last month, but the Louvre Abu Dhabi is already a force to be reckoned with in the art world.
New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz argued that "one look at this painting tells me it's no Leonardo", though he admitted that he is "no art historian or any kind of expert in old masters".
It had sold for a mere £45 in 1958, when the painting was thought to have been a copy, and was lost until it resurfaced at a regional auction in 2005. It was restored and authenticated, before being sold to its most recent owner, Russian businessman Dmitry Rybolovlev, for $127.5 million. The new museum now houses a permanent collection of 600 artworks, with a further 300 on loan from Paris - among them another Leonardo painting, "La Belle Ferronnière".