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Masterpiece Record Da Vinci painting seller will not withdraw case against Swiss art dealer

A painting by Leonardo da Vinci

The painting has now sold to an unidentified buyer

(EPA/Justin Lane via Keystone)

Despite selling his ‘Salvator Mundi’ painting for a world record price of $450 million (CHF446 million) at auction, Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev will continue pursuing his cheating case against Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier who acquired it for him. 

On Friday, Rybolovlev’s Paris-based lawyer Hervé Témime told the Swiss Press Agency STA that Bouvier had “duped” his client. 

“He made them believe that he had negotiated the purchase price with the [former] owner while he was doing it for his own benefit and betraying their interests and his mandate, in order to cash $44.5 million without cause,” said Témime.

The rediscovered Leonardo da Vinci painting of Christ, ‘Salvator Mundi’ was sold on Wednesday by Christie's auction house in New York for more than double the previous price for any work of art at auction.

It is one of fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo known to exist and the only one in private hands. Christie’s didn't immediately identify the buyer.

Rybolovlev and Bouvier have been entangledexternal link in legal wranglings over the da Vinci painting and others, with the oligarch claiming the art dealer cheated him out of around CHF1 billion by excessively marking up the price of the artworks. Bouvier denied the allegations and claimed that Rybolovlev was always free to decide whether or not he wanted to pay Bouvier’s asking price.

Swiss newspapers reported in October that the legal dispute had forced Bouvier to sell his art storage and transport company, Natural Le Coultre, which used the Geneva freeports – large storage warehouses in a tax-free zone – to the French group André Chenue.

‘Salvator Mundi’ dates from around 1500. It was owned by King Charles I of England in the mid-1600s and was auctioned by the son of the Duke of Buckingham in 1763. It then disappeared until 1900, when it resurfaced and was acquired by a British collector. 

The painting was sold again in 1958 and then was acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted over, by a consortium of art dealers who paid less than $10,000. The art dealers restored the painting and documented its authenticity as a work by Leonardo.

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