The Louvre has requested the painting for an exhibition opening in October being staged to mark the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death.
While a number of art historians including Dr Matthew Landrus and Jacques Franck have said they believe the picture should be ascribed to one of Leonardo’s assistants rather than the master, the art critic Ben Lewis, the author of the book The Last Leonardo, said that “inside sources at the Louvre” have indicated that not many of the Paris museums’ curators think it should be exhibited as wholly ascribed to the master and believe instead it should be labelled as 'workshop'.
It is widely believed that the current owner would not loan the work to the exhibition unless it was labelled as an autograph work.
When contacted by ATG, the Paris museum would not comment on whether it has decided how it would display the work. A spokesman said: “The Louvre has asked for the Salvator Mundi on loan. The owner didn’t give an answer yet.”
Christie’s, the auction house that set a record price for any work of art when it sold Salvator Mundi for $450m (including premium) in New York in November 2017, has always maintained the full attribution to Leonardo was supported by a panel of a dozen scholars ahead of the auction.
Academics who supported the attribution included Leonardo expert Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at Trinity College, Oxford, who according to the Guardian, told an audience at the Cheltenham literature festival in October that the reasons as to why the painting had yet to be exhibited since the auction was not due to doubts about the attribution.
The buyer at the Christie’s auction has never been revealed but it was announced a few weeks after the auction that the painting would be heading to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
It has been reported that the successful bidder was Saudi prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud who, it is believed, may have been buying on the behalf of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
However an article in the Wall Street Journal reported a Saudi official saying that Prince Bader was in fact “an intermediary purchaser" for Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism.
Salvator Mundi was due to go on show at the the United Arab Emirates museum in September 2018 but its unveiling was postponed with no details yet announced as to when it will go on view.