The mystery buyer who shattered art auction records by paying $450 million for a Leonardo da Vinci painting last month has been revealed as an obscure Saudi prince not previously known for collecting art—or for being incredibly wealthy. Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud—identified by the New York Times as the buyer—is, however, close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and might be exempt from his crackdown on corruption. Documents seen by the Times show that Bader, one of 5,000 Saudi princes, told officials at Christie's auction house that he made his money in real estate.
Bidding for "Salvator Mundi," the only da Vinci in private hands, was down to Bader, bidding anonymously through a representative, and another bidder after $260 million. Bader won with a $30 million jump for his final bid. The Washington Post notes that one of the things that makes the buy surprising is the fact that the painting is of Jesus. He is considered a prophet in Islam, and most Muslims consider visual portrayals of the prophets to be sacrilege. The BBC reports that the 500-year-old painting is headed not for Saudi Arabia, but for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened last month. The emirate's ruler is a close ally of the Saudi crown prince. (Read more Leonardo da Vinci stories.)