Where is the world’s most expensive painting?
Two new documentaries delve into the ongoing saga of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in a moment when true art crime stories are at their peak, writes Caryn James.
Somewhere in Saudi Arabia, hidden away by order of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is the world’s most expensive painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi. Or is it? No one in the art world knows for sure where the painting is. Most observers agree that it is likely stashed in the Middle East, but some have speculated that it is stored in a tax-free zone in Geneva or even on the Prince’s half-a-billion-dollar yacht. Is it even a Leonardo at all? The image of Christ as The Saviour of the World was billed as The Last da Vinci at Christie’s 2017 auction, where it sold for a record $450 million (£342 million) to a proxy for bin Salman (yes, that bin Salman, whom the CIA found responsible for ordering the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi). But even then, many Leonardo experts were dubious that the painting had more than a few brush strokes by him, and those doubts have ramped up ever since.