Abu Dhabi delays exhibition of da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’
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Abu Dhabi delays exhibition of da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’

Gallery says it will soon announce when 500-year-old painting of Jesus, acquired for $450 million, will be shown

In this October 24, 2017 photo, an employee poses with Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" on display at Christie's auction rooms in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
In this October 24, 2017 photo, an employee poses with Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" on display at Christie's auction rooms in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The unveiling of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi” at the Louvre Abu Dhabi has been indefinitely postponed, authorities said Monday.

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism announced the delay on Twitter, saying “more details will be announced soon.”

The department declined to answer any questions from The Associated Press, saying: “At this stage, we do not have any further information.”

The Renaissance oil painting of Christ, whose title in Latin means “Savior of the World,” sold for a record-breaking $450 million at an auction in New York at Christie’s in November. The painting depicts a blue-robed Jesus holding a crystal orb and gazing directly at the viewer.

It was to be displayed from September 18. The National, a state-aligned English-language newspaper in Abu Dhabi, wrote online Monday that “speculation suggests the museum might be waiting for its one-year anniversary on November 11” to unveil it.

The “Salvator Mundi,” a portrait of Jesus Christ painted in 1500, had been the only one of the fewer than 20 paintings believed to be the work of the famed Renaissance Old Master still in private hands.

The painting was declared authentic six years ago, after long being dismissed as a copy by one of da Vinci’s students.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has kept tight-lipped over the identity of the painting’s buyer, saying only that the emirate’s Department of Culture and Tourism had “acquired” it.

Last December, the New York Times identified the buyer as an obscure member of the Saudi royal family, Prince Badr bin Abdullah.

The Wall Street Journal later reported bin Abdullah was acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. He has never confirmed or denied the report.

Prince Badr was appointed to head the kingdom’s culture ministry in a government shakeup in June.

Western diplomats say a Saudi royal acting as a proxy for Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is close to Abu Dhabi’s powerful Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was the buyer. The Saudi Embassy in Washington and officials in Abu Dhabi say the Saudi royal purchased the painting on behalf of the museum in Abu Dhabi, which opened just days before the auction.

The display of the painting would be a major draw for the new museum, which has sought to distinguish itself from its namesake in Paris since opening after a decade of delays. Abu Dhabi has agreed to pay France $525 million for the use of the “Louvre” name for the next 30 years and six months, plus another $750 million to hire French managers to oversee 300 loaned works of art.

Authorities have not said how much it cost to build the museum, located on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island.

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