Most Expensive Paintings Ever

by Milan Jaukovic

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
Mona Lisa
by Leonardo da Vinci
(1503–1507)

Everyone knows the art is expensive… but how much? This is the list of the top 10 most expensive paintings ever bought on auction. This doesn’t mean those paintings the best or the most beautiful paintings, but sure does mean those painters are amongst most popular masters of art!

The paintings are ordered by the inflation-adjusted value and their values are time relative. Also, you may notice that only paintings sold in the last decade or two are on this list. But what about the most expensive/valuable painting ever?

Of course, it is the Mona Lisa (La Gioconda) by famous Leonardo da Vinci. Mona Lisa is owned by the French government and hangs in the Musée du Louvre in Paris so it couldn’t be offer in auction. But it has the highest insurance value for a painting in history, $100 million on December 14, 1962, before the painting toured the U.S. for several months. Taking inflation into the account it would be approximately $670 million in 2006!

1. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

$135,000,000

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
by Gustav Klimt (1907)

This painting was sold to Ronald Lauder for his Neue Galerie in New York City for $135 million in June 2006 at auction in Christie's, New York. Portrait of Dr. Gachet is painted in June 1890 by Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimt.

The portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer, the wife of a Jewish sugar industrialist Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer and the hostess of a prominent Vienna salon, is considered one of the artist's masterpieces. Adele Bloch-Bauer became the only model who was painted twice by Klimt when he completed a second picture of her, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, in 1912.

2. Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh

$116,790,000

Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Portrait of Dr. Gachet
by Vincent van Gogh (1905)

This painting was sold to Japanese businessman Ryoei Saito for $82.5 million on May 15, 1990 at auction in Christie's, New York. Portrait of Dr. Gachet is painted in June 1890 by Dutch Impressionism master Vincent van Gogh.

Ryoei Saito shocked the world when he announced he wish the van Gogh painting to be cremated with him at his death. Later he explained he was using a figure of speech: threatening to torch the oils was just an expression of intense affection for the masterpieces. Saito died in 1996.

Vincent van Gogh actually painted two versions of Dr Gachet's portrait with a slightly different color scheme. The other version is located at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

3. Bal au moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

$110,420,000

Bal au moulin de la Galette by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1876)

Bal au moulin de la Galette, Montmartre is an 1876 painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir. There are two versions of this painting with the same name: the larger one is located at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, while the smaller version was sold on May 17, 1990 for $78 million at Sotheby's in New York City, New York to Ryoei Saito, who bought it together with the Portrait of Dr Gachet.

Bal au moulin de la Galette was also in danger to be cremated with Saito together with the van Gogh’s painting.

4. Garçon à la Pipe by Pablo Picasso

$106,910,000

Garçon à la pipe
Garçon à la pipe
by Pablo Picasso (1905)

Garçon à la Pipe (Boy with a Pipe) is a painting by Pablo Picasso, painted in 1905 during 24-year-old Picasso's famous Rose Period, a period in which Picasso preferred cheerful orange and pink colours. The oil on canvas painting depicts a Parisian boy holding a pipe in his left hand.

On May 5, 2004 it sold for $104.1 million USD at an auction in Sotheby's in New York, after having been given a pre-sale estimate of $70 million by the auction house. The record price was a bit of a surprise since the painting is not made in the Cubist style that Picasso is so renowned for. Many art critics have stated that the painting's high sale price has much more to do with the artist's name than with the merit or historical importance of the painting.

5. Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso

$95,216,000

Dora Maar au Chat by Pablo Picasso
"Dora Maar au Chat
by Pablo Picasso (1941)

Dora Maar au Chat (Dora Maar with Cat) is a 1941 painting by Pablo Picasso. It depicts Dora Maar, the painter's mistress, seated on a chair with a small cat perched on her shoulders. The work is painted in Picasso's well-known cubist style. It was sold in an auction of impressionist works held at Sotheby's on May 3, 2006 in New York to an anonymous bidder, whose final bid was $95.2 million, well exceeding the pre-auction $50 million estimates.

6. Irises by Vincent van Gogh

$78,400,000

Irises by Vincent van Gogh
Irises
by Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Irises is a painting by the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, painted while he was at the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausole in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in the last year before his death in 1890.

In 1987, it became the most expensive painting ever sold when it was sold for AUS $54,000,000 to Alan Bond, but he did not have enough money to pay for it and it had to be re-sold. It is now owned by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.


7. Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens

$77,927,000

Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens
Massacre of the Innocents
by Peter Paul Rubens (1611)

This painting by Peter Paul Rubens, painted in 1611, is the oldest painting in this list. It was sold to Kenneth Thomson, 2nd Baron Thomson of Fleet for £49.5 million ($76.7 million) on July 10, 2002 at Sotheby's auction.

8. Les Noces de Pierrette by Pablo Picasso

$72,697,000

Les Noces de Pierrette by Pablo Picasso
Les Noces de Pierrette
by Pablo Picasso (1905)

Les Noces de Pierrette is another painting created by Spanish artist and sculptor, Pablo Picasso amongst most expensive paintings. It was created during Picasso's Blue Period, a time when he suffered from poverty and depression from the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas in 1901. This painting was sold to a rich Asian businessman for $51.7 million at Binoche et Godeau in Paris, France, on November 30, 1989.

9. Portrait de l'Artiste sans Barbe by Vincent van Gogh

71,690,000

Portrait de l'Artiste sans Barbe by Vincent van Gogh
Portrait de l'Artiste sans Barbe
by Vincent van Gogh (1889)

Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe ("Self-portrait without beard") is one of many self-portraits by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, that he painted in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in September 1889. The painting is a oil painting on canvas and is 40 cm x 31 cm (16" x 13").

Van Gogh painted this just after he had shaved himself. This is an uncommon painting since his other self-portraits show him with a beard. It becomes one of the most expensive paintings of all time when it was sold for $65 million on November 19, 1998 at Christie's, New York.

10. Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier by Paul Cézanne

$70,140,000

Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier by Paul Cézanne
Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier
by Paul Cézanne (1893-94)

Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier painting by Paul Cézanne was painted in 1893-1894. Cézanne was famous for drawing still lifes such as this, which expressed deep feelings though still based itself upon reality.

This painting was sold for $60.5 million at Sotheby's New York on May 10, 1999 to "The Whitneys", one of America's wealthiest families. It was later resold at a loss.


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