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Top 40+ List of Most Expensive Paintings in the World (Ranked by Price)

In this post, we have broken down the most expensive paintings as well as the most famous art pieces ever sold.

From works by the Old Masters to abstract paintings that have sold for over 100 million dollars. Here is our list of the most expensive paintings ranked from highest to lowest price.

The most expensive paintings in the world are:
1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci ($450 million)
2. Interchange by Willem de Kooning ($300 million)
3. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne (~250 million)
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin ($210 million)
5. Orange Marilyn by Andy Warhol ($200 million).

If you want to see more of our artist lists check out the below:

ArtworkSale Price (from high to low)Year
Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) by Leonardo da Vinci$450.3 million2017
Interchange by Willem de Kooning~$300 million (Private sale)2015
The Card Players by Paul Cézanne$250 million to $300 million2011
Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin~$210 million2015
Orange Marilyn by Andy Warhol~$200 million2022
Number 17A’ by Jackson Pollock~$200 million (Private sale)2015
No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko$186 million2014
‘Wasserschlangen II’ by Gustav Klimt$183 million2013
Rembrandt van Rijn, Pendant Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (1634)$180 million2015
Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) (1955) by Pablo Picasso$179.4 million2015
Masterpiece (1962) by Roy Lichtenstein$165 million2017
Le Rêve (1932) by Pablo Picasso$155 million2013
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) by Gustav Klimt$150 million2006
Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) (1955) by Pablo Picasso$149 million2015
Georges Seurat, Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite version), 1888$149 million2022
Twelve Landscape Screens (1925) by Qi Baishi$140.8 million2017
Paul Cézanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, 1888–90$137.8 million2022
Woman III (1953) by Willem de Kooning$137.5 million2006
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982$110.5 million2017
Gustav Klimt, Birch Forest, 1903$104.6 million2023
Sandro Botticelli Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel (1480)$92.2 million2022
Lucian Freud, Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau), 1981–83$86.3 million2022
Andy Warhol, White Disaster [White Car Crash 19 Times], 1963$85.4 million2022
Francis Bacon, Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981)$84.6 million2020
Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890) by Vincent van Gogh$82.5 million1990
René Magritte, Empire of Light (L’empire des lumières), 1961$79.7 million2022
Bal Du Moulin De La Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir$78.1 million1990
Peter Paul Rubens, Lot and His Daughters (ca. 1613–14)$58.1 million2016
Clyfford Still, PH-144 (1947-Y-NO.1) (1947)$60.7 million2011
Raphael, Head of a Young Apostle (ca. 1519–21)$47.8 million2012
J. M. W. Turner, Rome, from Mount Aventine (1836)$47.6 million2014
Raphael, Head of a Muse (ca. 1510)$47.5 million2009
Roy Lichtenstein, Nude with Joyous Painting (1994)$46.2 million2020
J. M. W. Turner, Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino (1839)$45 million2010
Francesco Guardi, Venice, a view of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North (1760s)$43 million2011
Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena) (1969)$42.7 million2020
David Hockney, Nichols Canyon (1980)$41 million2020
Ren Renfa, Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback (13th Century–14th Century)$39.5 million2020
Flag (1954) by Jasper Johns$36 million2010
Gerhard Richter, Abstraktes Bild (649-2) (1987)$34.2 million2016
Barnett Newman, Onement V (1948)$30.9 million2020
Brice Marden, Complements (2004–07)$30.9 million2020
Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d’Alger (version ‘F’) (1955)$29.22 million2020
Joan Miró, Femme au chapeau rouge (1927)$28.7 million2020
prices shown do not account for inflation and have been converted to USD*

Most Expensive Paintings – Our List

1. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503 – Never sold; priceless. (over 200 billion)

To start off this list we wanted to mentioned probably the most famous painting of all time, Mona Lisa by Da Vinci.

While this painting was never sold it has been estimated to be worth over 200 billion by some sources. It currently resides in the Louvre Museum (and they would likely never sell – however if they did it would surely be at the top of this list.)

Lastly, it’s a point worth emphasizing that the value of the Mona Lisa isn’t primarily tied to its price tag. Instead, its true worth lies in its pivotal historical significance, its standing as a pioneering masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance era, and its indelible impact on the collective psyche of countless generations around the globe.

2. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1500) $450.3 million (2017)

Now, we are onto a painting of Leonardo Da Vinci that was actually sold and truly tops our list of the most expensive paintings of all time.

Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” was sold for an incredible $450.3 million at Christie’s auction in 2017.

Regarded as one of the artistic wonders from the quill of Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi” is an intriguing 16th-century portrait of Jesus Christ. The painting, whose title translates as ‘Saviour of the World,’ portrays Christ in Renaissance dress, providing a benediction with his right hand raised and a crystal sphere in his left. The work exhibits Da Vinci’s signature technique of using light and shade to confer depth and volume, a technique known as sfumato.

Ever since its resale re-appearance in 2005, after a gap of 50 years, it was mired in a labyrinth of doubts about authenticity, condition, and complicity of the art market in bolstering its price. Yet, the painting’s sale underlined the sheer clout of masterworks in influencing bidders and establishing new thresholds in the art market.

3. Interchange by Willem de Kooning Approximately $300 million (Private sale, 2015)

Next up, we have an Abstract Expressionism painting by Willem de Kooning titled “Interchange” which sold for an estimated price of around $300 million in a private sale in 2015.

The base story behind this sale is pretty interesting. The iconic work was bought by Kenneth C.Griffin, a billionaire hedge fund executive, from David Geffen Foundation. This transaction shines a bright spotlight onto the realm of private sales in the art world—where discretion is revered, and the magnitude of money changes hands behind the curtain of anonymity.

De Kooning, a Dutch-American artist, was a leading figure in the abstract expressionist movement, universally celebrated for his vivid, dramatic canvases. His “Interchange” is a powerful and energetic abstract painting that captures the freewheeling spirit of his intuitive, spontaneous style. Often understood as an abstract cityscape, the painting vibrates with intense, raw emotion and dynamic movement—a characteristic of de Kooning’s intuitive approach.

However, the intriguing aspect of de Kooning’s success in the art market sheds light on the evolving art tastes and collecting trends. While de Kooning’s abstract works typically fare well on the market, their extraordinarily high prices also reflect the rarity of major pieces available for willing buyers.

4. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne $250 million to $300 million (2011)

The Card Players is a series of paintings created during the early 1890s by the post-impressionist artist Paul Cézanne.

As the name suggests, the series embodies the tranquil image of laborers engrossed in a card game. What distinguishes the third piece in this series from the rest of the collection (shown above) and powerful works across the globe, is its staggering sale price.

In 2011, it was purchased by the royal family of Qatar at an estimated price between $250 million and $300 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings in the world at the time.

Unlike Cézanne’s other works, this particular piece stands out in its stark, introspective depiction. Typically characterized by a vivid, colorful aesthetic and an eye for capturing fleeting moments of natural beauty, Cézanne deviates from his regularity in this painting. Depicting two men deeply engrossed in a card game, he introduces the viewer to striking tranquility, underscoring an unmistakably poignant human touch.

To put it into perspective, the collection, inclusive of other paintings in The Card Players series, are housed in globally recognized museums such as the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While the most expensive of them all found its home in the royal collection of Qatar.

5. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin ~$210 million (2015)

Next, a direct product of Paul Gauguin’s initial voyage to Tahiti in the late 19th-century, Nafea Faa Ipoipo, or When Will You Marry?, signifies an essential discourse in the artist’s portfolio.

This painting brings forth a layered narrative as it showcases a native Tahitian woman sporting a traditional flower in her hair, symbolizing marital readiness within the native culture. The painting is one of the earliest to be completed, dating back to 1892, during Gauguin’s foray to Tahiti.

Reportedly, this crucial work of art was acquired by an anonymous Qatari buyer at a staggering price tag of $210 million in 2015 from Swiss businessman Rudolf Staechelin. The price was initially reported to be $300 million, creating heightened levels of secrecy and speculation around the mysterious buyer and the actual value of the painting.

This painting not only holds a hefty price tag, but it also possesses a strong narrative history. The narrative features a young Tahitian woman, distinguished by the traditional white flower tucked behind her ear, implying her readiness for marriage. An older woman, presumably her mother, can be seen observing her discreetly from behind – a display of subtle protectiveness that further adds depth to the visual storytelling.

6. ‘Orange Marilyn’ by Andy Warhol Over $200 million (2022)

Up next we have the first work on this list by Andy Warhol.

Andy Warhol’s ‘Orange Marilyn.’ was sold for a staggering $200 million in 2022.

Warhol’s fascination with fame and his propensity to elevate everyday objects into art is vividly witnessed here. Side note: Warhol used silk screening – a printmaking method involving a woven mesh to support an ink-blocking stencil – to produce many such identical images, further emphasizing the ‘assembly line’ narrative of popular culture he often iterated.

Noteworthy, however, is the striking choice of color. The color orange in ‘Orange Marilyn,’ aside from popping out to the viewer, possibly indicates the eccentric life of the movie star, who lived a tumultuous life despite her glamorous façade.

7. ‘Number 17A’ by Jackson Pollock Approximately $200 million (Private sale, 2015)

Now we have a couple of abstract pieces that sold for staggering prices.

Here we have ‘Number 17A,’ by Jackson Pollock which he created in 1948 with his “drip painting” technique that sold for $200 million dollars in 2015.

Applying multiple layers of oils to create a calculated chaos on canvas, Pollock’s signature style resulted in works that were a dynamic explosion of vibrant colors, offering viewers endless interpretations.

However, some may be wondering why this canvas scattered with paint went for such a high price. Essentially, the artworld, including Sotheby’s (an art auction house that essentially created the high end art market) knows Pollock and has chosen him and his art to be worth a high value.

Pollock continuously developed his drip technique throughout the late 1940s, and ‘Number 17A’ serves as an exemplar. Keep in mind, ‘Number 17A’ serves as a critical pivot point in Pollock’s career. Aesthetically bold and bursting with emotive potential, the seemingly chaotic swirls and dashes tell a silent story, making it an expensive, yet intriguing piece of abstract expressionism that continues to intrigue art enthusiasts and collectors.

8. No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) by Mark Rothko $186 million (2014)

Another piece of art that went for a very high price that can seemingly be created with a few colors and a few basic shapes is “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” by Mark Rothko which sold for $186 million in 2014.

Again, with pieces like this that appear simple but sell for a staggering price, the art world has chose this artist and his work and placed that value upon it. The price of a piece of art is dictated by how much someone is willing to pay for it.

One unique characteristic about Rothko’s work like ‘No. 6’ is the intentional absence of tangible forms. Instead, what is shown is a visionary rendition of pure color and how it can potentiall convey profound sentiment.

9. ‘Wasserschlangen II’ by Gustav Klimt $183 million (2013)

As we step into more unique artworks with clear figures and themes we have the mesmerizing ‘Wasserschlangen (Water Serpents) II,’ created by Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt in the early 20th century, sold for $183 million in a 2013 private sale.

If you’re puzzled by its steep price tag, buyers are drawn to Klimt’s unique fusion of symbolic, erotic, and allegorical subjects.

One noteworthy historical aspect of this painting was its unfortunate fate during World War II, when it was seized in the infamous Nazi plunder. It resurfaced and was sold in a private sale for that record-breaking figure. Currently, ‘Wasserschlangen II’ is a valuable centerpiece in a private collection, casting its hypnotic glow on its privileged audience, reinforcing Klimt’s revered legacy in the global art community.

10. Rembrandt van Rijn, Pendant Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (1634) $180 million (2015)

Here we have the portrait duo of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, painted by artist Rembrandt van Rijn in 1634. They were sold through Christie’s for an astounding $180 million dollars.

What sets these portraits apart is their eternally coupled presentation throughout history, as they were customized to capture the essence of union. Remember, the distinctiveness of these masterpieces doesn’t solely rest in their intertwining narratives, but also in the captivating artistic mastery demonstrated by Rijn.

11. Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”) (1955) by Pablo Picasso $179.4 million (2015)

Another artists who’s art work frequently goes for a very high price is Pablo Picasso – in fact his work is mentioned several times on this list.

“Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”), painted in 1955 by Picasso was auctioned through Christie’s New York to an undisclosed buyer for an staggering $179.4 million.

A cornerstone in Picasso’s legacy, this artwork was part of an illustrious collection, each varying in theme and detail, commissioned as an homage to Eugene Delacroix’s masterpiece, The Women of Algiers in their Apartment, painted in 1834.

Side note: Picasso didn’t create just one version of “Les Femmes d’Alger,” he painted 15, each identified by a letter from A to O. His adaptations exude his distinctive style imprint that transforms the original concept with each new iteration.

12. Masterpiece (1962) by Roy Lichtenstein $165 million (2017)

‘Masterpiece’ by pop genius Roy Lichtenstein sold for a whopping $165 million in 2017.

Lichtenstein struck gold in 1962 when he transformed comic book illustrations into meticulously created art pieces. This widely-celebrated work of art is a colorful amalgamation of speech bubbles and Ben-Day dots.

Lichtenstein’s ‘Masterpiece’ perceptively pays homage to his own artistic journey.

Side note: this painting was completed a year before Lichtenstein gained international fame with his first solo exhibition.

13. Le Rêve (1932) by Pablo Picasso $155 million (2013)

Another piece of art created by Pablo Picasso that went for a mammoth price that we couldn’t not include on this list is ‘Le Rêve,’ It sold for 155 million after some mishaps and restoration (see below).

Directly translating to ‘The Dream,’ resulted from Pablo Picasso’s artistic quest in 1932. This oil painting, nestled comfortably in the artist’s celebrated erotic period, tells a vivid story with its bold shapes, rich colors, and implicit sexual symbolism.

The surrealist portrait captures Picasso’s 22-year-old lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, in a state of sleep or passionately daydreaming, an intimate perspective that resonated intensely with art patrons, triggering a surge in its appraisal value.

Behind ‘Le Rêve’ lays an intriguing backstory that further enhances its charm. Casino magnate Steve Wynn initially agreed to sell it to Steve Cohen for $139 million in 2006. However, the deal was infamously called off when Wynn accidentally tore the painting with his elbow. After a meticulous restoration, the artwork trades took place seven years later with Cohen for $155 million.

14. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) by Gustav Klimt $150 million (2006)

The second artwork by Klimt on this list is “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” which sold for $150 million when purchased in 2006.

This exquisite painting displays the intriguing fusion of Klimt’s signature style of symbolic, erotic art with a classic portrait. The portrait is of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a socialite and philanthropist who was an integral part of Vienna’s cultural elite.

This work of art, deemed worthy with a price tag of $150 million when purchased in 2006, grapples with portrayal of elegance. The elegantly adorned Adele, captured against an ornate background of intricate Oriental-inspired patterns, is reminiscent of Klimt’s fascination with Byzantine mosaics and Egyptian art. Side note: The painting, now owned by Oprah Winfrey, was previously held by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer before being compelled to abandon it during the Nazi regime.

15. “Les Poseuses, Ensemble” by Georges Seurat 1888 $149 million (2022)

Painted in 1888, Seurat’s masterpiece found a new home in 2022 when it was purchased for an awe-inspiring $149 million.

Known for his distinct Post-Impressionist style, Seurat was particularly famous for his technique known as ‘pointillism.’ As you may have guessed, this technique involves subtly applying small dots of distinct colors to form an image.

Seurat’s “Les Poseuses, Ensemble” is guided not only by the artist’s unique approach to color and form but also by his remarkably staged composition. This careful balancing act of intricate detailing and bold themes creates an intimate look into the world of these women, making this $149 million purchase much more than just an art acquisition. This painting is more like a snapshot of history, frozen in time, ready to unfold its stories to those ready to listen.

16. Twelve Landscape Screens (1925) by Qi Baishi $140.8 million (2017)

Twelve Landscape Screen is a remarkable painting series by Qi Baishi. Done in 1925, this collection of 12 pieces represents the prominent essence of classic Chinese art. It sold for an impressive price of $140.8 million in 2017.

Qi Baishi, a household name in Chinese art, was widely recognized for his unparalleled mastery in creating lively depictions of nature. The collection brings together 12 screens, each flowing seamlessly into the next, like stanzas in a poem, reflecting the changing seasons and moods of Chinese landscapes. From blooming fields and frozen lakes to springtime gardens and peaceful villages, Qi Baishi’s brush brings every element to life in this dynamic series.

17. La Montagne Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne 1888–90 $137.8 million (2022)

If you’re a fan of Impressionist art with deep roots in history, then La Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1888-90) by Paul Cézanne is one for you. This unique piece sold for a staggering $137.8 million in 2022.

Many art lovers admire this piece for its aesthetic elegance, simplicity, and the potential storytelling capacity.

It’s interesting to note that the Montagne Sainte-Victoire series is emblematic of Cézanne’s innovative approach to nature. Drawing inspiration from his hometown of Aix-en-Provence’s countryside in the south of France, he painted this mountain with profound respect and sensitivity.

Taking a closer look, the Montagne Sainte-Victoire painting reveals an intense exploration of light and color with each brushstroke. The textured strokes, chromatic richness, and spatial complexity have a visual rhythm that immerses the viewer in the landscape.

18. Woman III (1953) by Willem de Kooning $137.5 million (2006)

On par with Cézanne’s La Montagne Sainte-Victoire in terms of monetary value, Woman III fetched a monumental $137.5 million in 2006.

In essence, this art piece curated by Willem de Kooning is a prime example of one of the most significant artistic movements in history – Abstract Expressionism.

The arresting image of a female figure nestled within abstract imagery invites viewers into a world that exudes power, mystery, and profound emotion. This painting stood as one of the integral artistic works in a series where de Kooning spent two full years laboring over depictions of women.

19. Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982 $110.5 million (2017)

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Untitled” painting from 1982 is definitely intriguing in its symbolism and style. It sold for an impressive $110.5 million in 2017.

Basquiat, a New York-based graffiti artist, descended into the art world with his abstract compositions that flirted with an aura of defiance against established norms of artistic expression.

This vibrant artwork distills the essence of grimacing skull-like visage, teeming with color – resonating the pulsating energy of the multicultural New York cityscape. It’s worth noting that “Untitled” currently holds the record as the most expensive work sold by an American artist. The painting was purchased by one of the wealthiest art collectors, Yusaku Maezawa.

20. Birch Forest by Gustav Klimt 1903 $104.6 million (2023)

Gustav Klimt’s “Birch Forest” is the third artwork from Klimt that fetched a very high price. It sold for $104.6 million in 2023.

The painting draws the viewer into a captivating realm of quietude, dominated by slender birch trees reaching skywards, their white bark a stark contrast to the verdant foliage. This majestic scenery, bathed in the warm embrace of sunlight, conjures a serene and tranquil ambiance.

Klimt painted multiple versions of the birch forest theme, but this particular piece is praised for its exceptional depiction of nature’s vibrancy and tranquility.

21. Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel (1480) by Sandro Botticelli $92.2 million (2022)

“Portrait of a Young Man Holding a Roundel,” crafted by Sandro Botticelli in 1480 sold for $92.2 million.

It’s intriguing to note that the young man depicted in the painting isn’t identified definitively, a mystery which only intensifies the allure of the artwork. However, the roundel he holds is a significant attribute, believed to be an original work of 14th-century Sienese painter Bartolomeo Bulgarini, strategically incorporated into Botticelli’s creation.

This painting is one of the limited number of Botticelli’s portraits still in pristine condition, which elevated its value exponentially. Capturing the essence of early Renaissance portraiture with a modernized classical style, the attention to minute detail combined with a striking juxtaposition of colors defines the greatness of this masterpiece.

22. Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) by Lucian Freud 1981–83 $86.3 million (2022)

One of my personal favorite artists, Lucian Freud, joins this list with his “Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau)”, painting which sold for $86.3 million in 2022.

This beautifully detailed interior scene is meticulously captured, featuring Freud’s daughter Bella and a pregnant Kai Boyce, a close friend. Interestingly, “W11” in the title refers to the postal code of the studio in London where this painting was created, while “after Watteau” pays homage to Jean-Antoine Watteau, an 18th-century French painter.

Exemplifying Freud’s distinctive and detailed style of portraiture, the intricate strokes and sombre human depiction encapsulate the raw essence of his subjects. Freud’s ability to thread human vulnerability, with all its imperfections and anxieties, throughout his artwork, remains a bold testament to his empathetic vision as an artist. The audacious vision and compelling narrative add a layer of charm to the artwork, making it a coveted symbol of contemporary artistic prowess.

23. White Disaster [White Car Crash 19 Times] by Andy Warhol, 1963 $85.4 million (2022)

Here we have another art work don by Andy Warhol, “White Disaster [White Car Crash 19 Times]” (1963) is a formidable demonstration of his groundbreaking silkscreen technique and sold for $85.4 million in 2022.

While the painting may at first seem chilling, it manifests Warhol’s deep reflection on the desensitization of society towards calamities. He incorporates a mechanical process (silkscreen printing), and the repeated image underscores how such catastrophes have become commonplace. Side note: Warhol’s exploration of the macabre and the commercial has made his work immensely popular among collectors, helping it to command such high prices at auction.

24. Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus by Francis Bacon, (1981) $84.6 million (2020)

Another of my personal favorite artists is Francis Bacon and his ‘s triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981) was sold for an impressive $84.6 million in 2020.

The significant value of this artwork derives from its dramatic theme and raw, emotional execution. Bacon modernizes the ancient Greek trilogy of Aeschylus, focusing on intense human emotions, and fragments of violent action spread across the three canvases.

The distorted human figures, similar to many of Bacon’s other works, evoke feelings of despair and tension. This innovative fusion of the primeval with the post-war vibe adds to its allure, leading to the monumental sale price. Bacon’s representation reflects on human nature’s dark side and the brutal realities of life, which continues to captivate viewers and collectors.

25. Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890) by Vincent van Gogh $82.5 million (1990)

Here we have our first mention of Vincent Van Gogh with his artwork, “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” which sold for an astonishing $82.5 million in 1990.

This staggering price came as a result of intense bidding that went down at a Christie’s auction house event, padding the painting’s reputation with an undeniable stature of worth.

So, what’s behind this painting? Dr. Gachet was the very doctor who cared for Van Gogh in the final months of his life, making intimate details of their relationship reflected in this piece.

Van Gogh used his signature use of bold and vibrant colors to capture Dr. Gachet’s thoughtful expression in this renowned portrait. Notably, an interesting fact about the painting is that there are two versions of it, one of which was bought by a Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito.

26. Empire of Light (L’empire des lumières) by René Magritte, 1961 $79.7 million (2022)

Next up is René Magritte’s “Empire of Light (L’empire des lumières)” painting. Painted in 1961, it sold for an eye-watering $79.7 million in 2022.

This painting blends the fantastical with the ordinary to fashion a world suspended between day and night. In other words, it’s a fascinating manipulation of reality with an upper-half depicting a dusky evening sky illuminating the glow of street lamps and the bottom half showing a sunny house scene.

27. Bal Du Moulin De La Galette (1876) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir $78.1 million (1990)

Bal Du Moulin De La Galette is one of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s most well-known and beloved works, which sold for $78.1 million at auction back in 1990.

It’s a prime example of Impressionism, a movement Renoir was instrumental in shaping. The painting captures the cheerful atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon dance at Moulin De La Galette, a popular outdoor venue in 19th century Paris.

Keep in mind, this price was in 1990 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, the sale price today would be well over $150 million today.

28. Lot and His Daughters by Peter Paul Rubens (ca. 1613–14) $58.1 million (2016)

Peter Paul Rubens’ Lot and His Daughters is a masterwork from the Baroque era that sold for an impressive $58.1 million in 2016.

Rubens, a Flemish artist known for dramatic sweeping compositions and richly dressed figures and intricately detailed figures, depicts a Biblical story where the human folly of Lot is juxtaposed with divine intervention.

Rubens excelled at bringing these dramatic, often complex Biblical tales to life. The vibrancy of the colors, the movement visible in the garments of the characters, and the stark contrasts of light and dark create an aura of impending doom and urgency, perfectly capturing the essence of Baroque era artwork.

29. PH-144 (1947-Y-NO.1) by Clyfford Still (1947) $60.7 million (2011)

Now, we are back to more abstract pieces with ‘PH-144’ by Clyfford Still which sold for $60.7 million in 2011.

This painting depicts a turbulent, amoebic scene rendered almost entirely in shades of scarlet. Celebrated for its daring movement and the raw emotion it manages to evoke, ‘PH-144’ serves as a fine example of Clyfford Still’s signature style.

Composed in 1947, it affirms Still’s dedication to primary colors and organic forms, a choice that marked a significant departure from the prevailing trends in the art world of his time.

30. Head of a Young Apostle by Raphael (ca. 1519–21) $47.8 million (2012)

By fir Raphael’s ‘Head of a Young Apostle,’ sold for an imposing $47.8 million in 2012.

Originated approximately between 1519 –1521, this painting radiates a timeless portrait study.

Traceable to the high renaissance era, it forms a part of Raphael’s vast body of religiously themed art. A flourishing example of the artist’s mastery of delicate, intricate details, it offers an examplary study of youth and innocence.

31. Rome, from Mount Aventine by J. M. W. Turner (1836) $47.6 million (2014)

J.M.W. Turner, a leading figure in the Romantic era and landscape artist, is celebrated for his sublime capturing of nature and sweeping landscapes.

Rome, from Mount Aventine sold for $47.6 million in 2014.

Rome, one of his masterpieces completed in 1836, carves its niche in the coveted list of most expensive paintings. Having been sold for a record-breaking $47.6 million in 2014, the painting commands the same valuation today.

This genius artwork portrays the panoramic view of Rome’s Aventine Hill, swathed in the ethereal morning glow. Turner was a master at capturing light and atmosphere, a prowess that is brilliantly exemplified in this creation. Of note, the painting was on public display only once in the last century, adding to its allure.

Link: Click here to check out our the other most famous landscape artists of all time

32. Raphael, Head of a Muse (ca. 1510) $47.5 million (2009)

Another portrait from Raphael, ‘Head of a Muse’ sold for $47.5 million in 2009.

Extraordinary in its origin, this artwork was once a preparatory sketch for the eminent fresco, The Parnassus, housed grandly in Vatican’s Stanza della Segnatura.

While encapsulating the masterful control and grace of Raphael’s draughtsmanship, this image also serves as a testament to the artist’s ability to breathe life into a quick sketch.

33. Nude with Joyous Painting by Roy Lichtenstein (1994) $46.2 million (2020)

Next, we have another piece by renowned pop artist Roy Lichtenstein titled “Nude with Joyous Painting” which sold for $46.2 million at Christie’s auction in 2020.

But what makes this painting so special? The artwork showcases Lichtenstein’s signature Ben-Day dots technique, and features a nude female character borrowed from the DC Comics series, Girls’ Romance.

The painting sparked a prolonged bidding war at Christie’s, eventually being clinched by an Asian bidder. The sale price exceeded the pre-sale estimate of $30 million, an indication of the immense value placed on Lichtenstein’s work.

34Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino by J. M. W. Turner,(1839) $45 million (2010)

Another piece by influential British artist, J. M. W. Turner, “Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino” sold for $45 million in 2010 at a Sotheby’s auction.

Turner’s depiction of Rome is not an accurate architectural portrayal, but a fantasized view, where he aimed to bring out emotions rather than provide a realistic snapshot. It’s an amalgamation of Rome’s past and present, inherently infused with Turner’s romantic perspective.

35. Venice, a view of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North by Francesco Guardi (1760s) $43 million (2011)

Francesco Guardi’s timeless piece “Venice, a view of the Rialto Bridge, Looking North” painted in the 1760s was sold at Sotheby’s auction in 2011 for a staggering $43 million.

It depicts a panoramic view of Venice, transporting the observer to a time where gondolas were the only mode of transportation in the city.

This esteemed piece did the justice in capturing Italy’s beauty. Transporting observers to an era of serene waters and clear skies, Guardi’s portrayal of gondolas gliding down the Grand Canal is an intimate window into Venice’s past.

36. Untitled (Bolsena) by Cy Twombly (1969) $42.7 million (2020)

Abstract painter Cy Twombly’s “Untitled (Bolsena)” is another imposing addition to this compilation of most expensive paintings ever sold. Created in 1969, this compelling piece is characterized by Twombly’s spontaneous style of skeins of paint, smeared and skewed into organic forms. It was sold at Christie’s auction house in 2020 for an impressive $42.7 million.

Its stratospheric selling price not only signifies the collector’s appreciation for Twombly’s trademark abstract style but also shines a light on the high value buyers still place on contemporary abstract works.

37. Nichols Canyon by David Hockney (1980) $41 million (2020)

David Hockney’s “Nichols Canyon” beautifully captures the allure of the Californian landscape and was sold for $41 million at the prestigious Phillips New York auction house in 2020.

Hockney’s abstract interpretation of the Nichols Canyon is a prime example of his increasing fascination with landscapes and their reinterpretation through vivid, unexpected colors. Also worth noting is the sheer expansiveness of this piece, which aids to its impact and visual appeal, undoubtedly contributing to its high auction value.

38. Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback by Ren Renfa (13th Century–14th Century) $39.5 million (2020)

A 700-year-old Chinese scroll, “Five Drunken Princes Returning on Horseback”, is one of the most notable masterpieces by Ren Renfa, a high-ranking Song Dynasty official who was also an esteemed painter.

It sold for $39.5 million in 2020 at Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong.

This panoramic scroll painting draws its inspiration from Chinese literary classics featuring royal figures. Displaying subtle yet intricate ink-brush techniques, Renfa’s portrayal of the five inebriated princes has a lavish charm to it. Despite its age, the artwork remarkably maintains its rich, original ink hues thus amplifying its worth and appeal for art collectors.

39. Flag (1954) by Jasper Johns $36 million (2010)

“Flag” by Jasper Johns created in 1954, sold for $36 million back in 2010.

This piece was acquired by hedge fund manager, Steven A. Cohen. Cohen actually acquired this valuable artwork directly from the artist, bypassing galleries or auction houses, which is a fairly unusual practice.

Johns used a unique combination of encaustic, oil, and collage on a fabric mounted on a plywood board to depict the American flag.

Side note: The Encaustic painting technique involves utilizing heated beeswax, which gives the painting a rich texture and depth of color.

This 42-inch by 60.5-inch creation is not just a patriotic homage but also a commentary on the nature of art itself – a key feature of Johns’ body of work.

40. Abstraktes Bild (649-2) by Gerhard Richter, (1987) $34.2 million (2016)

Gerhard Richter’s “Abstraktes Bild (649-2)” is another abstract art piece that sold for $34.2 million in 2016.

This abstract masterpiece was created by Richter in 1987, illustrating his masterful touch in the realm of abstract art. This sale shattered the previous record for the highest sum fetched by this German artist, underscoring the escalating demand for and value of Richter’s work.

The painting itself, a canvas measured 78.74 inches by 98.43 inches, is an impressive representation of Richter’s significant contribution to the abstract movement. Rendering a balanced blend of color, texture, and movement, Richter allows the observer to immerse in the visual journey the painting unfolds.

41. Barnett Newman, Onement V (1948) $30.9 million (2020)

Another abstract piece is Barnett Newman’s Onement V which sold for $30.9 million in 2020.

This distinctive artwork takes us back to 1948 when Newman, an abstract expressionist, forever reshaped the art sphere by pioneering “color field” painting. His innovative approach integrated vast swathes of color to create atmospheric compositions. Within such a framework, Onement V stands magnificently as an iconic symbol of Newman’s revolutionary artistic scope.

The painting measures 78 by 37 inches, unfolding a wide canvas fully imbued with a deep shade of royal blue. Interestingly, what intrigues most observers is the single streak of light — referred to as a “zip” by the artist — that vertically bisects the painting. This “zip” serves as both a unifying and a disorienting force within the artwork, kindling a silent yet profound conversation between the viewers and the painting.

42. Complements (2004–07) by Brice Marden $30.9 million (2020)

Adding to high price abstract artworks, Brice Marden’s masterpiece, Complements (2004–07) was sold for the same notable amount of $30.9 million in 2020.

Shifting away from his renown monochromatic works, originating from his early artistic journey, Complements stands as a symbol of Marden’s evolution towards a new path. This unique piece was a part of his heralded ‘plane series,’ indicating a fresh direction in his artistic exploration.

43. Femme au chapeau rouge by Joan Miró (1927) $28.7 million (2020)

Finally, the last art piece on our list, we have Joan Miró’s Femme au chapeau rouge, painted in 1927 and sold for $28.7 million in 2020.

This abstract surrealism artwork, which translates to ‘Woman in a Red Hat’, introduces the world of art to the avant-garde methodology widespread in Miró’s realm of creativity during the 1920s. Laced with earthy colors, prominent shapes and subtle symbols, this piece reflects an amalgam of Miró’s fondness for surrealism and his affectionate ties with Catalonia.

What Makes Artist’s Paintings Expensive or Valuable?

Some factors that make an artist’s paintings more expensive are:

  1. Artist’s Reputation and Historical Significance: Paintings by renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, or Pablo Picasso are highly sought after because of their significant contributions to the art world. The artist’s legacy and influence can play a major role in determining the value of their work.
  2. Rarity: If only a few pieces by an artist are available or if a particular painting hasn’t been seen in the public eye for a long time, its value is likely to be higher.
  3. Provenance: The history of a painting’s ownership can add to its value. If a piece has been owned by someone famous or has an interesting story attached to it, this can increase its desirability and price.
  4. Historical Importance: Paintings that have played a significant role in the history of art or represent pivotal moments in an artist’s career can be especially valuable.
  5. Condition: The better the condition of a painting, the higher its value. Factors like cracks, discoloration, or other signs of damage can reduce a painting’s worth.
  6. Medium: Some mediums are considered more valuable than others. For example, oil paintings might generally be valued higher than watercolors by the same artist.
  7. Size: Bigger paintings, especially from certain artists or periods, can fetch higher prices, although this isn’t a strict rule.
  8. Subject Matter: Some subjects are more desirable than others. For example, portraits by certain artists or depictions of specific historical events can be more sought after.
  9. Aesthetic Appeal: This is subjective, but paintings that are considered especially beautiful or evocative can be more valuable.
  10. Authenticity: Authentic works are, of course, more valuable than forgeries or reproductions. Proving authenticity can significantly increase a painting’s value.
  11. Market Trends: The art market is affected by trends. A certain style, period, or artist might become fashionable, leading to an increase in demand and prices for related artworks.
  12. Economic Factors: The broader economic environment plays a role. In booming economies, art prices might rise as people have more disposable income and view art as a good investment.
  13. Exhibitions and Publications: If a painting has been featured in major exhibitions or significant publications, its profile and value might increase.
  14. Collector Demand: If influential collectors or institutions are actively seeking works by a particular artist, this can drive up prices.
  15. Emotional Value: Sometimes, the value of a painting can be driven up by personal or emotional factors, such as a painting’s association with a particular event, place, or individual.

What Artist’s Paintings Are the Most Expensive?

Here are some artists whose works have achieved record prices at auctions or private sales:

  1. Leonardo da Vinci:
    • “Salvator Mundi” was sold for approximately $450.3 million in 2017, making it the most expensive painting ever sold at auction at that time.
  2. Pablo Picasso:
    • “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’)” fetched $179.4 million in 2015.
    • “Garçon à la pipe” sold for $104 million in 2004.
  3. Amedeo Modigliani:
    • His “Nu couché” was auctioned for $170.4 million in 2015.
  4. Willem de Kooning:
    • “Interchange” reportedly sold for approximately $300 million in a private sale in 2015.
  5. Paul Cézanne:
    • “The Card Players” was reportedly bought by the State of Qatar for somewhere between $250 million and $300 million in a private sale in 2011.
  6. Gustav Klimt:
    • “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” was purchased for $135 million in a private sale in 2006.
  7. Vincent van Gogh:
    • While many of his paintings have fetched high prices, “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” was one of the top sellers, having been auctioned for over $82 million in 1990 (this would be much more in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation).
  8. Francis Bacon:
    • His “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” sold for $142.4 million in 2013.
  9. Jean-Michel Basquiat:
    • One of his untitled paintings sold for $110.5 million in 2017.
  10. Mark Rothko:
  • “No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)” was sold in a private sale for approximately $186 million in 2014.

What Is the Most Expensive Painting Sold in the US?

When we talk about the costliest painting ever sold in the United States, the conversation steers towards Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi.’ This revered artwork, which translates to ‘Savior of the World,’ broke auction records when it was sold for a mind-boggling $450 million at a Christie’s auction in 2017 and currently tops our list.

This price was four times the pre-sale estimate and substantially higher than the previous record-holder for the most expensive artwork sold at auction, Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)” which fetched $179.4 million in 2015.

How Are Expensive Paintings Bought and Sold?

High-priced artworks like paintings are typically bought and sold through a few key channels, with the most prominent being auction houses. Renowned auction houses like Sotheby’s and Christie’s have long been trusted arenas where valuable pieces of art change hands for substantial sums.

Private sales are another way that costly paintings are often bought and sold. Here, the transaction happens directly between the buyer and the seller, often facilitated by intermediaries such as art dealers and galleries. One advantage of private sales is that they are discreet and can be more expedient compared to public auctions.

Lastly, online platforms are quickly emerging as a popular marketplace for trading valuable artwork. With the internet providing greater accessibility to a global audience, high-profile artworks are increasingly being marketed and sold through digital auctions.

Other Related Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the No. 1 Expensive Painting?

The Salvator Mundi, an exquisite painting by none other than the artistic genius, Leonardo da Vinci, holds the title for the most expensive painting ever sold.

This ethereal depiction of Jesus Christ, as the ‘Savior of the World,’ was crafted around 1500 and sold at a staggering price of $450.3 million in 2017 at Christie’s auction.

It’s worth noting that the painting’s value is not just attributed to the art particulars but also its rich history and the mystery surrounding its whereabouts.

What’s the Most Expensive Painting Ever Purchased at an Auction?

Interestingly, the answer remains the same. Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ holds this record too.

This highly revered painting was sold at a staggering $450.3 million at Christie’s auction in 2017. Observers of this auction still remember the tense 19-minute bidding war that led to this historic purchase. The fact that the painting was sold in an open auction adds another layer of legitimacy to its cost, as public auctions are a trusted means to determine an artwork’s value due to the competitive nature of bidding.

What Are the Most Expensive Paintings in the World?

The most expensive paintings in the world are:
1. Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci ($450 million)
2. Interchange by Willem de Kooning ($300 million)
3. The Card Players by Paul Cézanne (~250 million)
4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin ($210 million)
5. Orange Marilyn by Andy Warhol ($200 million).

How Much Is the Most Expensive Painting by a Living Artist?

Escaping the trend, the priciest painting by a living artist is a contemporary work called ‘Rabbit’ by Jeff Koons.

A stainless steel sculpture resembling a balloon bunny, the ‘Rabbit’ was auctioned for an eye-watering sum of $91.1 million at Christie’s in 2019. Although Koons’ style drastically contrasts from the likes of da Vinci, his unique and innovative approach to art has also found immense favor in the art market. It’s noteworthy that the artwork’s striking design and significant cultural relevance are the reasons behind this high valuation.

Who Bought the Most Expensive Painting in the World?

The buyer of the priciest artwork is as shadowy as the painting itself. Salvator Mundi’s buyer chose to remain anonymous during the Christie’s auction in 2017, fueling a whirlwind of curiosity and speculation.

Later, The New York Times claimed that the actual buyer was Prince Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, a Saudi royal. However, there’s no official confirmation to this claim.

Do Artists Make Money Off of Selling Expensive Artwork?

Do living artists see any returns when their paintings are sold for staggering amounts? Well, it’s not as straightforward as it might seem. Contrary to common belief, most artists don’t necessarily make more money when their work sells for higher prices on the secondary market—the market involving the reselling of artworks, usually at auction or through a dealer.

In reality, it’s the collectors, dealers, and auction houses that pocket most of these profits.

However, some countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have enacted ‘droit de suite’ or resale royalty rights. This law stipulates that artists should receive a percentage of the resale value of their work. Unfortunately, this is not a universal law and artists in places like the United States do not benefit from these rights.

Although, it’s essential to note that when an artist’s work starts to fetch high prices in the secondary market, it can elevate their status and increase the demand and price for their new works in the primary market.

What Is the Most Expensive Painting that Was Ever Stolen?

The most expensive painting that was ever stolen was”The Concert” by the acclaimed Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.

Painted in 1664, this masterpiece, an emblem of Vermeer’s extraordinary mastery of light and color, is valued at an estimated staggering $200 million. However, its monetary value fails to encapsulate its true worth, steeped in historical significance and artistic excellence.

A dismal fact to note is that this exquisite piece of art, alongside 12 others, was stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the stolen treasures, collectively valued at upwards of $500 million, have yet to be recovered, garnering the case the disconcerting distinction of being one of the most significant unsolved thefts in history.

In a unique attempt to galvanize efforts and boost awareness, the museum maintains the original frames, eerily empty, which held the stolen artworks as a haunting tribute to the irreplaceable treasures sensationally abducted.

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