In 2017, the art world went crazy as drama unfolded around the sale of "Salvator Mundi," a painting of Jesus Christ that was controversially attributed to painting master Leonardo da Vinci. Intrigue surrounding the work ran high between its record-setting selling price of more than $450 million, an anonymous bidder thought to represent Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and experts from around the world debating the authenticity of the painting, which looked distinctly different than most typical Leonardo works.
Today the controversy continues as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, which recently announced they would be displaying the painting, canceled the scheduled unveiling without explanation, as reported by The New York Times. The culture department has refused to answer any questions pertaining to the work, and museum staffers say that they do not know where the painting is.
Neither, it seems, does anyone else.
French officials who work with the Louvre in Paris, which licenses its name to the Abu Dhabi museum, expected to include the painting in a major exhibition later this year. The event will mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo's death. They expressed hope that the painting would resurface prior to then.
"It is tragic," said Dianne Modestini, an art professor at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. In the past, she has also worked as a conservator on this particular painting. "To deprive the art lovers and many others who were moved by this picture — a masterpiece of such rarity — is deeply unfair," she added.