Saudi prince is buyer of world's dearest painting, Leonardo's Salvator Mundi

Da Vinci died in 1519 and there are fewer than 20 of his paintings in existence. Thousands flock daily to the Louvre in Paris to see his masterpiece Mona Lisa

A Saudi Arabian prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, has been identified by The New York Times as the buyer of the most expensive ever painting, Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi.

He was the chairman (appointed by Prince Mohammed) of Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the publisher of Arab newspaper Al Share Al Awsat and other publications. The prince will not be keeping the art at home. Badar is reportedly a close friend and confidant of the crown prince, who is already well-known for making extravagant purchases well into the hundreds of millions. The paper said it had seen documents confirming that Prince Bader had bought the painting.

Alex Rotter, the auction house's co-chairman of post-war and contemporary art in the Americas, represented the anonymous buyer of the Da Vinci and placed the winning bid after a spellbinding 19-minute contest that saw offers at US$200 million, US$300 million and US$350 million fall short. He initially gave a $100 million deposit to secure his purchase and to qualify for the auction.

However Prince Bader paid for the seminal artwork, one thing is clear: he was desperate to win the auction.

He and Prince Mohammed, 32, both attended King Saud University in Riyadh around the same time. According to the report, Prince Bader was appointed the governor of a new commission, headed by Prince Mohammed, which will work towards turning the Al Ola province into a tourist area.

He is a board member of Energy Holdings International, an energy company with business in Middle East, Asia and Americas.

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The first works on loan from the Louvre in Paris include another painting by Da Vinci: La Belle Ferronniere, one of his portraits of women.

The firm's website describes him as "one of Saudi Arabia's youngest" entrepreneurs, present in sectors including real estate, telecommunications and recycling. This can be linked to what he said to the lawyers of Christie regarding his financial sources.

In 1958, when it was advertised as a "school of da Vinci" work, it sold for the paltry sum of $76.36.

The revelation came shortly after the newly-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi tweeted that the Salvator Mundi would soon be coming to the museum.

The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened on November 11, has been one of the "most aggressive buyers on the global art market over the last decade", according to Bloomberg.