Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' on display at Christie's New York Auction House, November 15 2017. Picture: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGS
Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' on display at Christie's New York Auction House, November 15 2017. Picture: DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGS

New York — A Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece, whose whereabouts has been a mystery since it sold in 2017 for a record $450m, has turned up in an unlikely place, according to Artnet.com.

“Salvator Mundi” is being kept on a superyacht owned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, the publication reported on Monday, citing two “principals involved in the transaction” that it did not identify.

Another Saudi prince was said to have purchased the 500-year-old painting on Bin Salman’s behalf at a 2017 Christie’s auction, the New York Times reported previously. Christie’s declined to confirm that report.

A spokesperson for the Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the high seas may not be the best place for a fragile Old Master painting, it’s not uncommon for the super-wealthy to decorate their yachts with trophy art. Joe Lewis hung Francis Bacon’s “Triptych 1974/1977”, worth an estimated $70m, on the lower deck of his yacht, the Aviva.

‘‘Salvator Mundi”, whose provenance has been questioned, will remain aboard Bin Salman’s 134m Serene until the Saudis create a planned cultural hub in Saudi Arabia's Al-Ula region, Artnet said. The project was in an “exploratory phase”, a spokesperson for the commission overseeing the plan said in December.

Experts at the Louvre have attributed the work to Da Vinci’s workshop, rather than to the artist alone, according to a published report. Celine Dauvergne, a spokesperson for the Louvre, declined to comment on the painting’s attribution, but said the Paris museum has asked to borrow the work for an October exhibition.

With Devon Pendleton

Bloomberg