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Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” as a French stereotype (illustration by the author for Hyperallergic)

The director of the Louvre is in talks with the mysterious buyer or buyers of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” to exhibit the $450.3 million work at the Paris museum. During an interview with RTL, Louvre President and Director Jean-Luc Martinez said that he hopes to secure a loan of the most expensive artwork ever sold for a blockbuster Leonardo show the museum is planning to mark the 30th anniversary of its “Grand Louvre” renovation and expansion in fall 2019.

“We hope to see ‘Salvator Mundi’ in Paris, ” Martinez said. “The goal is to gather the greatest number of works by Leonardo.” He added: “The Louvre has five Leonardo da Vinci paintings of the 15 that exist. That’s to say one third of the collection. … ‘Salvator Mundi’ is an exception. Should we have tried to acquire it? The answer was no.”

Scoring a loan of “Salvator Mundi” — whose buyer remains unknown and the subject of much speculation — would be a major coup for the Louvre. Indeed, some have even floated the possibility that the mystery buyer is in fact the Louvre’s Emirati sister institution, the just-opened Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Louvre counts Leonardo’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, the recently restored “Saint John the Baptist,” and the controversially restored “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” among its holdings. Already the most-visited (and most-Instagrammed) museum in the world, an exhibition bringing together every Leonardo painting in the world, or even most of them, would undoubtedly fuel a huge spike in attendance.

However, the loan is seemingly far from confirmed, and a Louvre spokesperson struck a more cautious note. “The Louvre is currently working on the list of loans for the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition planned for fall 2019,” the spokesperson told Hyperallergic. “It is too early for us to comment on that list.”

Update, 12/8/2017: After conflicting reports that “Salvator Mundi” had been bought by an obscure Saudi prince or the nation’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the Louvre Abu Dhabi announced today that the painting was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi for the museum’s collection.

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...