50 Of The Most Expensive Paintings That Fetched Millions
It's tempting to assume that the most expensive painting in the world is Da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. Although you would be correct in guessing the artist, that would not be entirely true. Currently, the highest price paid for a painting is $450.3 million, paid for another work of his, Salvator Mundi.
Although Mona Lisa's theoretical value could be way higher (some say more than a billion dollars!), it's not for sale. And it will not be anytime soon. Hence, Italian La Gioconda, just like some of the other most famous paintings you would expect to cost an arm and leg, can't be included in the list of most expensive paintings in the world. They might be one day, but for now, we can only look at the most expensive art pieces purchased at auctions or private sales. However, before we hop into the list of the most expensive paintings ever sold, we want to emphasize a few things.
This list is far from complete. That is because private transactions are not always reported to the media; even if they are, some sensitive details (the price, buyer, or seller) may not be disclosed. Besides, the most expensive paintings we used for our listing are all in the public domain. Hence, the most expensive art pieces with strict copyright laws had to be excluded from our list.
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $53.9 million
The brilliant Irises by Vincent van Gogh, which he painted in 1889 during his first week in the asylum at St. Remy, was sold at Sotheby's New York in 1987 for $53.9 million.
Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Artist: Gustav Klimt | Year (completed): 1907 | Price (original): $135 million
The painting was unlawfully taken from its Jewish owners by Nazis in 1941 and, for a while, belonged to the Galerie Belvedere in Vienna, Austria. This was until one of the inheritors of the artwork made a claim against the gallery for the return of stolen work. In 2006, after a seven-year legal battle, the legatee won the lawsuit, and the painting was returned to its rightful owners. However, that same year it was sold for $135 million to the businessman and art collector Ronald Lauder.
A Wheatfield With Cypresses
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $57 million
The largest piece from the series of three was owned by several individuals throughout the years. Dieter Bührle was the last known buyer; he paid $57 million for the artwork in 1993 and subsequently donated it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Wasserschlangen II (Water Serpents II)
Artist: Gustav Klimt | Year (completed): 1907 | Price (original): $170 million
The highly embellished painting was stolen during World War II but resurfaced in the public light when Sotheby's auctioned it off in 2015. Following a few ownership changes, in 2017, the artwork was sold for $170 million to an anonymous buyer, rumored to be either an Asian buyer or a Qatari princess.
Artist: Claude Monet | Year (completed): 1890 | Price (original): $110.7 million
The master of impressionism loved serial works. The most well-known of his series is the one with haystacks, or meules in French. One of the paintings from the series was sold at Sotheby’s New York for $110.7 million in 2019 and is now held in private hands.
Pendant Portraits Of Maerten Soolmans And Oopjen Coppit
Artist: Rembrandt | Year (completed): 1634 | Price: $180 million
Formerly owned by the Rothschild family, the two wedding portraits were sold to the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum in 2016 after both museums contributed half the purchase price of €160 million. The pair have remained together since their creation in the 17th century because the two European museums take turns exhibiting the portraits.
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci | Year (completed): 1500 | Price (original): $450.3 million
Salvator Mundi, which translates to "Savior of the World," is the most expensive painting in history and arguably the most controversial since many scholars question whether Leonardo da Vinci really created the entire piece. In 2017, a bidder allegedly acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman purchased the painting from Christie's for $450.3 million.
Portrait De L’artiste Sans Barbe (Self-Portrait Without Beard)
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $71.5 million
Van Gogh painted several self-portraits, but this was his final one. The painting was sold to a private collector in New York in 1998 for $71 million. Due to inflation, its current value is believed to be over $103 million.
Portrait Of Adele Bloch-Bauer II
Artist: Gustav Klimt | Year (completed): 1912 | Price: $150 million
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II was sold by Christie's auction house in November 2006 for about $88 million to Oprah Winfrey. However, in the summer of 2016, Oprah Winfrey sold it for $150 million to an unidentified Chinese buyer.
Artist: Gustav Klimt | Year (completed): 1903 | Price (original): $104.5 million
Rather than focusing on the enigmatic, dark nature of the woods, for this piece, Klimt chose an ostensible autumnal setting, when the colors of the leaves naturally gravitate towards the golden tones he enjoyed. Birch Forest was yet another painting from Paul Allen's collection, sold at Christie's auction. The unnamed buyer paid a total of $104.5 million for it.
Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas (Water-Lily Pond)
Artist: Claude Monet | Year (completed): 1919 | Price (original): $70.3 million
Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas is yet another painting from Monet’s famous Water Lilies series. In 2021 at Sothesby’s New York, Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas sold for $70.3 million, well over its estimated $40 million. That’s more than four times the $16.8 million price it made at Sotheby’s in 2004.
Portrait Of Dr. Gachet
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1890 | Price: $82.5 million
There are two authenticated versions of the portrait, both created in June 1890 at Auvers, the home of Dr. Paul Gachet, the subject of the painting and the man who cared for Van Gogh in his final months. The first version was sold at auction in New York in 1890 to the Japanese paper magnate Ryoei Saito and fetched a record-breaking $82.5 million.
Portrait Of Joseph Roulin
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $58 million
The postal worker depicted above, Joseph Roulin, and his family were the subjects of more than 20 portraits by the artist. This particular portrait of Van Gogh's close friend was acquired for $58 million from a private collection in Zurich by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1989.
The Standard Bearer
Artist: Rembrandt | Year (completed): 1636 | Price (original): $198 million
The Standard Bearer, regarded as one of Rembrandt's most brilliant works, was formerly owned by England's King George IV until it was purchased by the Rothschild family in 1844. In 2022, the artwork was sold to the Netherlands for €175 million (around $198 million) and has since been featured in museum exhibitions nationwide.
Bal Du Moulin De La Galette
Artist: Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Year (completed): 1876 | Price (original): $78.1 million
For many years, John Hay Whitney owned the smaller version of the painting with the same title. However, it was sold to Ryoei Saito, the Japanese paper magnate, for $78 million in 1990. At the time it was auctioned, it was among the top two most expensive pieces of art ever sold, along with Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet, which was also purchased by Saito.
Garçon À La Pipe (Boy With A Pipe)
Artist: Pablo Picasso | Year (completed): 1905 | Price (original): $104.2 million
The painting, which depicts a local kid who passed at a young age, was sold at Sotheby's New York in 2004 for a staggering $104,168,000. Sotheby's did not disclose the buyer, although the sources believe it was an Italian businessman, Guido Barilla.
Les Poseuses, Ensemble (Petite Version) (The Three Models)
Artist: Georges Seurat | Year (completed): 1888 | Price: $149.2 million
The third of Seurat's six major works was created in response to critics who thought Seurat's style was subpar because it was cold and lifeless. The artist's response to them was this painting, depicting three different nude poses of the same woman. In 2022, the artwork, which belonged to the late billionaire Paul Allen, was sold at an auction for $149.2 million.
Vase With Fifteen Sunflowers
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $39.7 million
In 1987, Japanese insurance magnate Yasuo Goto bought Van Gogh's Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers at Christie's London for $39.7 million. At the time, it was a record-setting amount paid for a work of art.
Portrait Of A Young Man Holding A Roundel
Artist: Sandro Botticelli | Year (completed): 1480 | Price (original): $92.2 million
The portrait, thought to have been completed in 1480, is believed to represent the standards of beauty of Renaissance Florentine high society. The painting was purchased by an unnamed Russian-speaking buyer in 2021 at Sotheby's New York for $92.2 million.
Nymphéas En Fleur
Artist: Claude Monet | Year (completed): 1917 | Price (original): $84.7 million
A painting from Monet's Water Lilies series, which was at the time part of David Rockefeller and his wife's private collection, was sold to a private collector for $81.7 million at Christie's New York in 2018.
Artist: Édouard Manet | Year (completed): 1881 | Price (original): $65.1 million
Monet’s close, long-time friend Antonin Proust was the one who suggested the idea for the painting. Because he was also the one who commissioned it, he became the first owner of Le Printemps. In 2014, the last (known) time the artwork was placed for sale, the J. Paul Getty Museum spent over $65 million to acquire it.
The Card Players
Artist: Paul Cézanne | Year (completed): 1893 | Price: $250 million
In 2011, the royal family of Qatar paid $250 million for this particular artwork, one of five paintings from Cézanne's series depicting labor workers playing cards. The other four are currently on display at different museums across the globe.
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire
Artist: Paul Cezanne | Year (completed): 1890 | Price (original): $137.7 million
Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a mountain in southern France overlooking Aix-en-Provence, became the subject of several of Cézanne's paintings. This particular one by Paul Cézanne, part of Paul G. Allen's collection, sold for $137.79 million at Christie’s New York in 2022.
La Montagne Sainte-Victoire Vue Du Bosquet Du Château Noir
Artist: Paul Cézanne | Year (completed): 1904 | Price (original): $100 million
The subject of the artwork is the already familiar Montagne Sainte-Victoire. One of the most famous landscape paintings was sold to the State of Qatar for $100 million in a private sale in 2014 by the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House.
Verger Avec Cyprès (Orchard With Cypresses)
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1888 | Price (original): $117.1 million
The piece, which was part of the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's collection, was sold at auction on 10 November 2022 at Christie's New York for $117.2 million. The buyer of the artwork remains unknown.
Portrait Of Alfonso d’Avalos With A Page
Artist: Titian | Year (completed): 1533 | Price (original): $70 million
French insurance company AXA was the previous owner of Titian's painting before the Getty Museum, its current owner, acquired it for $70 million. Apparently, the Louvre badly wanted the painting and had the option to purchase it from AXA for a reasonable price. However, for reasons unknown, the Louvre decided not to take up the offer.
Artist: Edward Hopper | Year (completed): 1929 | Price (original): $91.9 million
The artwork belonged to Barney A. Ebsworth, who had promised to donate it to the Seattle Art Museum. However, upon his demise, the possession was transferred to his estate. The artwork set a new record for the artist when it sold for $92 million in November 2018 at Christie's New York.
Artist: Paul Gauguin | Year (completed): 1893 | Price: $120 million
The artwork, which features a Tahitian woman, was involved in a lawsuit between Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, Swiss art dealer Yves Bouvier, and the auction house Sotheby's. Rybolovlev accused Bouvier and Sotheby's of inflating the price of the painting. Otahi, which Rybolovlev allegedly paid $120 million for, was only resold for $50 million.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Marry?)
Artist: Paul Gauguin | Year (completed): 1892 | Price (original): $210 million
Paul Gaugin painted Nafea Faa Ipoipo?, which translates to "When Will You Marry?," after his first visit to Tahiti in 1891. According to the initial reports, Swiss businessman Rudolf Staechelin sold the Gaugin work to a Qatari client for $300 million. However, a 2017 lawsuit later revealed that the painting actually fetched $210 million.
Maternitè II (Maternity II)
Artist: Paul Gauguin | Year (completed): 1899 | Price (original): $105.7 million
Maternitè II was another painting from Paul Allen's collection, sold at auction on 10 November 2022 for a staggering $105.7 million. The buyer of the painting remains anonymous.
Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas
Artist: Claude Monet | Year (completed): 1919 | Price (original): $80.5 million
A famous depiction of Monet's late-period water lilies, Le Bassin aux nymphéas, is richly colored in deep blues and greens and is very abstract. In 2008, Christie's London sold it for £40.9 million to an unidentified seller.
Laboureur Dans Un Champ (Field With Plowing Farmers)
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $81.3 million
Painted during his stay at a mental asylum, Laboreur dans un champ may be viewed as a window into Van Gogh's inner world. The landscape painting, depicting an artist determined to heal himself through art, was sold for $81.3 million in 2017 to an unidentified buyer at Christie's New York.
The Gross Clinic
Artist: Thomas Eakins | Year (completed): 1875 | Price (original): $68 million
The Gross Clinic, praised for its staunch realism, plays a significant role in documenting the history of medicine. In 2006, Thomas Jefferson University Board wanted to sell the artwork to the gallery in Washington, but initiatives to keep the painting in Philadelphia got underway. For the artwork to remain home, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art were compelled to sell some of their paintings to cover the $68 million purchase price.
Ten Views Of Lingbi Rock
Artist: Wu Bin | Year (completed): 1610 | Price (original): $77 million
Wu Bin's Ten Views of Lingbi Rock shows ten different angles of a single stone and is the most remarkable painting of rock ever created in China. In December 1989, this handscroll was the first Chinese painting to sell for one million dollars. Over three decades later, in 2020, the artwork was sold at Poly Auctions in Beijing for about $76.6 million and sent back to China.
Eagle Standing On Pine Tree
Artist: Qi Baishi | Year (completed): 1946 | Price (original): $65.5 million
The painting, intended as a 60th birthday gift to China's former leader, Chiang Kai-shek, was sold for 425.5 million yuan ($65.5 million) in the auction house China Guardian in 2011. The new owner became not a person but a group—a China-based advertising company, Hunan TV & Broadcast Intermediary Co.
Artist: Wang Meng | Year (completed): 1350 | Price (original): $62.1 million
A wash painting of mountains and waters by a Yuan Dynasty painter depicts a famous Taoist medical scientist, Ge Hong, moving his home to the Luofu Mountain to practice alchemy. In 2011, the painting was sold to an anonymous buyer for $62.1 million.
Massacre Of The Innocents
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens | Year (completed): 1611 | Price (original): $76.7 million
Canadian billionaire Kenneth Thompson acquired Massacre Of The Innocents from an Austrian family for £49.5 million ($76.7 million) at Sotheby's London in 2002. However, Thompson then donated the artwork to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Les Noces De Pierrette (The Marriage Of Pierrette)
Artist: Pablo Picasso | Year (completed): 1905 | Price (original): $51.67 million
While chronologically belonging to Picasso's Rose Period, it’s artistically characteristic of the Blue Period, when the artist faced poverty and depression after his friend took their own life. The last known buyer of the artwork was a Japanese businessman Tomonori Tsurumaki who paid the $51.67 million price for it when he purchased it from Fredrik Roos.
Artist: Paul Gauguin | Year (completed): 1892 | Price (original): $85 million
The artwork was bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev in a private sale in 2008. It cost the billionaire €54 million ($85 million). Later, in 2017, he sold it for $25 million at auction, incurring a loss of more than $60 million.
Rideau, Cruchon Et Compotier (Curtain, Jug And Fruit Bowl)
Artist: Paul Cézanne | Year (completed): 1894 | Price (original): $60.5 million
In 1999, this still life composition, in which Cézanne explores the relationship between form, balance, and symmetry in objects, fetched $60.5 million at Sotheby's New York. The artwork is the most expensive still life painting ever sold.
Artist: Hans Holbein | Year (completed): 1526 | Price (original): ~$75 million
After hanging in the museums on long-term loan, the Darmstadt Madonna was sold to a German billionaire and art collector, Reinhold Würth, via a Frankfurt dealer in 2011 for around $75 million. Apparently, if the artwork had not been legally required to remain in Germany, the painting could have fetched over €100 million on the international market.
Diana And Actaeon
Artist: Titian | Year (completed): 1559 | Price (original): $70.6 million
The "poesies," a collection of seven well-known paintings that portray mythical scenes from Ovid's Metamorphoses, include Diana and Actaeon. In 2009, the 7th Duke of Sutherland, who acquired the artwork by descent, sold it for £50 million to the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Gallery in London.
Nude Sitting On A Divan
Artist: Amedeo Modigliani | Year (completed): 1917 | Price (original): $68.9 million
The piece was part of a series of nude paintings by Modigliani completed in 1917 that caused quite a stir when they were exhibited in Paris that year. An unidentified bidder purchased the artwork in 2010 for $68.9 million at Sotheby's New York.
Peasant Woman Against A Background Of Wheat
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1890 | Price (original): $47.5 million
Since its creation in 1980, the picture has passed through the hands of several owners. In 1997, Steve Wynn paid $47.5 million for the painting when he purchased it in a private sale in New York. However, in 2005, news broke that billionaire hedge fund investor Steven A. Cohen had bought the artwork from Steve Wynn together with Gauguin's The Bathers for a collected $120 million. However, none of this information has been confirmed.
Portrait Of A Halberdier
Artist: Pontormo | Year (completed): 1537 | Price (original): $35.5 million
Before passing through several private hands, the piece was recorded in the collection of the Riccardi family in Florence. Now in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, in 1989, Portrait Of A Halberdier was auctioned to its present owner for $32.5 million, making it the most expensive old master artwork sold up to that date.
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1888 | Price (original): $66.3 million
The Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh created a pair of paintings, or "pendants," titled Les Alyscamps, depicting autumnal scenes in Arles, France. One painting was auctioned off in 2003 for over $11 million, while the other painting from the pair (pictured above) sold for $66.3 million to an unnamed buyer in 2015.
Cabanes De Bois Parmi Les Oliviers Et Cyprès
Artist: Vincent van Gogh | Year (completed): 1889 | Price (original): $71.4 million
Before its current owner, the famous Van Gogh painting belonged to late Dallas oil tycoon Edwin L. Cox. When his Impressionist art troves were put up for auction in 2021, Cabanes De Bois Parmi Les Oliviers Et Cyprès was sold for an astonishing $71.4 million.
Nu Couché (Sur Le Côté Gauche)
Artist: Amedeo Modigliani | Year (completed): 1917 | Price (original): $157.2 million
One of Modigliani’s unclad masterpieces, Nu Couché, depicts a naked woman reclining on a couch. In 2018, the painting, one of Modigliani’s largest and most provocative works, was sold to a private collector at an auction at Sotheby’s New York for an astonishing $157.2 million.
Artist: Pablo Picasso | Year (completed): 1901 | Price (original): $47.8 million
The painting depicting the artist as he appeared in his youth switched hands multiple times since 1970 when Fletcher Jones purchased the artwork at Christie's London for £147,000. In 1975 the painting was sold to "an anonymous French buyer." In 1981, Wendell Cherry purchased it for $5.3 million. At last, in 1989, Cherry sold it to Greek billionaire Stavros Niarchos for $47.85 million.
Artist: Kazimir Malevich | Year (completed): 1916 | Price (original): $85.8 million
Following a legal dispute over ownership that lasted 17 years, in 2008, the artwork was returned to the artist's heirs. A few months later, the latter sold it to the Nahmad family for $60 million. At last, in 2018, it was sold to its current owner, art dealer Brett Gorvy, for $85.8 million.