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Saudi crown prince reportedly bought the most expensive painting ever

  • Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bought Leonardo da Vinci's $450 million "Salvatore Mundi" painting, the latest in a series of impulse purchases.
  • The news comes amid Bin Salman's crackdown on corruption and imposition of austerity measures.
Christie's employees take bids for Leonardo da Vincis 'Salvator Mundi' at Christie's New York November 15, 2017.
Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images
Christie's employees take bids for Leonardo da Vincis 'Salvator Mundi' at Christie's New York November 15, 2017.

News that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bought the $450 million Leonardo da Vinci painting came as a shock to the Western world.

But to those who have followed the Prince, it's just the latest in a series of jaw-dropping purchases.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Prince Mohammed was the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvatore Mundi," which was auctioned off at Christie's last month for $450 million – the highest price ever paid for a work of art.

Initially, the New York Times reported that the buyer was Prince Bander, a friend of Prince Mohammed's. But the Wall Street Journal reports that Prince Bander bought it as a "proxy" for Prince Mohammed.

The news is sure to send ripples through the Middle East – not just because the leader of a Muslim nation bought a portrait of Christ. But also because Prince Mohammed is leading a crackdown on corruption and imposing new austerity measures in Saudi Arabia.

Yet the 32-year-old Crown Prince's purchase is just the latest of his nine-figure shopping sprees. Two years ago, he was vacationing in the South of France and admired a 440-foot yacht in the distance, owned by Russian vodka magnate Yuri Shefler. The Prince sent an aide to buy the ship for over $500 million. Shefler sold it, moved off and turned the ship over to the Prince the same day.

He is also building a giant resort near Jidda, with seven palaces for the family – all built around a giant artificial lake in the shape of a flower.

It's unclear where the da Vinci will hang. But at least for a while, it will go to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Saudis have not yet responded to CNBC's request for comment.

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