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Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world

Have you ever wondered which artworks command the highest prices? Let's explore the world's most expensive paintings and the stories behind them

Published: Mar 1, 2024 06:00:22 PM IST
Updated: Mar 22, 2024 05:26:57 PM IST

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world

Did you know that some paintings are sold for amounts more than the GDP of smaller countries? In this blog, we're looking at the world's most expensive paintings. Join us as we dive into the incredible stories behind each piece and discover why they're not just expensive but genuinely priceless.

World’s most expensive paintings

Let's go through the most expensive paintings in the world, the artists behind these masterpieces, and the astonishing price tags they carry.

Also Read: 10 most expensive things in the world

Painting Artist Price (in million dollars)
Salvator Mundi Leonardo da Vinci 450.3
Interchange Willem de Kooning 300
The Card Players Paul Cezanne 250-300
Nafes Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) Paul Gauguin 210
Number 17A Jackson Pollock 200
The Standard Bearer Rembrandt 198
No.6 (Violet, Green and Red) Mark Rothko 186
Wasserschlangen II Gustav Klimt 183.8
Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit Rembrandt 180
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O) Pablo Picasso 174

A deeper insight into each masterpiece

Also Read: The top 10 most expensive houses in the world

Let's explore the world's most expensive paintings and their impact on art history, from Da Vinci's $450.3 million 'Salvator Mundi' to Picasso's $174 million 'Les Femmes d'Alger'.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci; Image: Getty images

"Salvator Mundi" by Leonardo da Vinci

"Salvator Mundi" is renowned for being the world’s most expensive painting. This artwork, depicting Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World, was lost for years before its rediscovery. Its journey involved being mistaken for a copy, undergoing restoration, and finally being authenticated as da Vinci's work. The 2017 sale for $450.3 million was shrouded in controversy, stirring debates about its authenticity. Its buyer remained anonymous, adding to its mystery.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"Interchange" by Willem de Kooning

"Interchange" by Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning's abstract expressionist work "Interchange" represents a pivotal moment in American art history, reflecting the post-World War II shift towards abstraction. Painted in 1955, this masterpiece is a vivid example of de Kooning's signature style, blending abstract and figurative elements. Its sale in September 2015 set a record for the most expensive painting ever sold at that time. The buyer, hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, made the purchase as part of a deal that also included another de Kooning work, "Woman III."

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"The Card Players" by Paul Cézanne

"The Card Players" by Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne's "The Card Players," a series of oil paintings created in the early 1890s, is one of the most pivotal works in transitioning from 19th-century Impressionism to 20th-century Cubism. The series depicts Provençal peasants immersed in their game, a subject reflecting Cézanne's interest in portraying everyday life with simplicity and solidity. The paintings are renowned for their reduction of complex scenes to simple shapes, a technique that paved the way for modernist artists. The sale of this particular version to the Royal Family of Qatar in 2011 signifies Cézanne's enduring influence on the course of art history.

"Nafea Faa Ipoipo" by Paul Gauguin

"Nafea Faa Ipoipo," a Tahitian phrase meaning "When Will You Marry?" was painted by French artist Paul Gauguin in 1892 during his first trip to Tahiti. This vivid artwork, which sold for an estimated $210 million in 2015, is one of the most expensive paintings ever. The painting features two Tahitian women against a lush landscape backdrop, embodying Gauguin's fascination with Tahitian culture, exoticism, and the idea of an untouched paradise.

Its bold colours, strong outlines, and simplified forms reflect Gauguin's departure from Impressionism towards Symbolism and foreshadow the emergence of Primitivism in art.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"Number 17A" by Jackson Pollock

"Number 17A" by Jackson Pollock

"Number 17A" by Jackson Pollock, created in 1948, is a striking example of his revolutionary drip painting technique that propelled the Abstract Expressionist movement. "Number 17A" features a complex, vibrant web of dripped and splattered paint, where the act of painting itself becomes the subject. This style broke away from traditional methods, focusing instead on the rhythm, motion, and expression of the artist's process.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"The Standard Bearer" by Rembrandt

"The Standard Bearer" by Rembrandt

"The Standard Bearer," painted by the Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn in 1636, showcases Rembrandt's mastery in capturing human emotion and his exquisite use of light and shadow, known as chiaroscuro. The painting portrays a military figure, possibly a self-portrait of Rembrandt, holding a standard and adorned in lavish attire, reflecting the artist's interest in historical and allegorical themes.

Rembrandt's works are celebrated for their deep psychological insight and innovative techniques, which have influenced generations of artists and continue to captivate audiences and collectors worldwide.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)" by Mark Rothko

"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)" by Mark Rothko

"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)" is a captivating painting known for its rich, vibrant colours and large, soft-edged forms. This work, painted in 1951, exemplifies Rothko's signature style of creating immersive colour fields that evoke deep emotional responses. The painting is part of Rothko's exploration of the spiritual and emotional potential of colour, inviting the viewer into a meditative and introspective experience.

Top 10 most expensive paintings in the world"Wasserschlangen II" by Gustav Klimt

"Wasserschlangen II" by Gustav Klimt

"Wasserschlangen II" (Water Serpents II) by Gustav Klimt, an eminent Austrian Symbolist painter, is a stunning artwork recognised for its ornate style and sensual portrayal of the female form. Created between 1904 and 1907, this painting is a prime example of Klimt's fascination with eroticism and the female body, set within a dreamlike aquatic environment. The piece is characterised by intricate patterns, bold use of colour, and a blend of realism and fantasy, typical of Klimt's work during his 'Golden Phase.'

Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt

Painted by Rembrandt in 1634, these portraits are significant works that showcase the artist's exceptional skill in portraiture. These life-size portraits depict a newly married couple, Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, in opulent attire, reflecting the wealth and status of the Amsterdam elite in the 17th century. Rembrandt's masterful use of light and shadow and his ability to capture the textures of fabrics and the intricacies of human expression are evident in these works.

The sale of these portraits to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris marked a significant moment in art. This joint purchase by the Dutch and French governments allowed these masterpieces to be displayed alternately in both museums, ensuring wider public access to these important pieces of cultural heritage.

"Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" by Pablo Picasso

"Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" is a highly celebrated and significant painting in the history of modern art. Created in 1955, this work is part of a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by Picasso, inspired by Eugène Delacroix's 1834 painting "The Women of Algiers." This version, noted for its vibrant colour palette and complex geometric composition, exemplifies Picasso's unique style of Cubism, which revolutionised the art world in the 20th century.

The series as a whole was also Picasso's tribute to his recently deceased friend and rival, Henri Matisse. "Les Femmes d'Alger (Version O)" garnered immense attention when it sold for $179.4 million in 2015.

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