So which is the most expensive painting in the world?

The Mona Lisa

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci – Is this the most expensive painting in the world today? Perhaps, not!

The world’s most famous paintings are generally owned or held at museums, for viewing for patrons. The museums very rarely sell them and hence its difficult to put a price on many of them.

As per the Guinness World Records, the highest known insurance valuation for a painting is $100 million – assessed for the move of Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘The Mona Lisa’ from the Louvre in Paris to Washington DC and then New York City for a special exhibition in 1962-63. However, insurance was not concluded because the cost of the highest security precautions was less than that of the premiums.

Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value of US$ 100 million for The Mona Lisa would be around US$ 774 million (as of Sep 2013).

Interestingly, King Francis I of France bought the Mona Lisa painting for his bathroom in 1517 for 4000 gold florins, or 13.94kg of gold. The equivalent today would be $654,369.

Would The Mona Lisa still be the world’s highest valued painting?

Ginevra de' Benci

Ginevra de’ Benci by Leonardo da Vinci

Till the 1980s, the art auction market was dominated by European paintings that were created by artists belonging to the 19th century or earlier – especially the Renaissance style. In fact, when The National Gallery of Art, in February 1967, acquired Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Ginevra de’ Benci‘ (1474) for around $5 million from the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, it was the most expensive art purchase known to the world.

 

 

Clearly, a striking feature of the art of Leonardo seems to have been the emphasis on female portraiture. With the exception of a portrait of a musician, all the surviving portraits by Leonardo are portraits of women.

Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi by Andrea Mantegna

In absolute dollars (not adjusted for inflation), this record was broken when the J. Paul Getty Museum paid $10.5 million for Andrea Mantegna’s ‘Adoration of the Magi‘ (1462) at Christie’s in London in 1985. Both Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) were Italian Renaissance painters.

Since then, all paintings that have held the distinction of the ‘most expensive painting’ belong to the “modern” genre i.e. post-1850 paintings. So whether ‘The Mona Lisa’ (1503-17) would still hold the highest valuation of all paintings is a matter that can’t be settled given the changed tastes of our times.

The Record Holders

Here’s a list of all paintings that have held the record since the 1985 sale of Mantegna’s ‘Adoration of the Magi':

Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers

Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh – triple the previous record and ushered a new era in top art sales

Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers (1888)

Sale date: March 30, 1987

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Sold for: US$ 39.7 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 82.9 million

Seller: Daughter-in-law of Chester Beatty (an Irish-American mining magnate and millionaire, often called the “King of Copper”)

Buyer: Yasuo Goto, Yasuda Comp. (one of the oldest and largest insurers in Japan)

Irises

Irises by Vincent van Gogh

Irises (1889)

Sale date: November 11, 1987

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Sold for: US$ 53.9 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 109.4 million

Seller: Son of Joan Whitney Payson (the first woman to own a major-league team, Major League Baseball’s New York Mets, in North America without inheriting it)

Buyer: Alan Bond (a British-born Australian businessman)

Portrait of Joseph Roulin

Portrait of Joseph Roulin by Vincent van Gogh

Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1889)

Sale date: August 1, 1989

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Sold for: US$ 58+ million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 111+ million

Seller: Private collection, Zürich

Buyer: Museum of Modern Art, New York

 

 

Portrait of Dr. Gachet

Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh – sold exactly 100 years after van Gogh painted it

Portrait of Dr. Gachet (1890)

Sale date: May 15, 1990

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Sold for: US$ 82.5 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 149.5 million

Seller: Siegfried Kramarsky family (a Jewish financier who fled to New York to escape the Holocaust)

Buyer: Ryoei Saito (a Japanese paper magnate – honorary chairman of Daishowa Paper Manufacturing)

Vincent van Gogh is by far the best represented artist in the list. However, it is interesting to note that during his lifetime Van Gogh was never famous as a painter and struggled to make a living as an artist. Van Gogh only sold one painting during his lifetime.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907)

Sale date: June 18, 2006

Artist: Gustav Klimt

Sold for: US$ 135 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 155.8 million

Seller: Maria Altmann (a niece of Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish patron of the arts who served as the model for some of Klimt’s best-known paintings)

Buyer: Ronald Lauder, Neue Galerie

No. 5, 1948

No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

No. 5, 1948 (1948)

Sale date: November 2, 2006

Artist: Jackson Pollock

Sold for: US$ 140 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 162.7 million

Seller: David Geffen (an American business magnate noted for creating Asylum Records, Geffen Records, DGC Records; was also one of the three founders of DreamWorks SKG)

Buyer: David Martinez (managing partner of Fintech Advisory, a firm that specializes in corporate and sovereign debt)

The Card Players

The Card Players by Paul Cézanne – the most expensive painting ever sold

The Card Players (1892/93)

Sale date: April 2011

Artist: Paul Cézanne

Sold for: US$ 259+ million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 269.4 million

Seller: George Embiricos

Buyer: Royal Family of Qatar

While the Royal Family of Qatar had to shell out a fortune for this classic painting, you can get a canvas reprint of The Card Players painting for Rs. 2,400 on Engrave. Buy it now »

Others in the 100 Million Club

There are 10 paintings in all that have sold for a US$ 100+ million price tag – 3 of which are included in the above list. The other 7 paintings are listed below:

Eight Elvises

Eight Elvises by Andy Warhol

Eight Elvises (1963)

Sale date: October 2008

Artist: Andy Warhol

Sold for: US$ 100 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 108.1 million

Seller: Annibale Berlingieri

Buyer: Unknown

Garçon à la pipe

Garçon à la pipe by Pablo Picasso

Garçon à la pipe / Boy with a Pipe (1905)

Sale date: May 4, 2004

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Sold for: US$ 104.2 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 129 million

Seller: Greentree foundation (Whitney family)

Buyer: Barilla Group (Yep, the Italian company that makes great pastas!)

 

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust by Pablo Picasso – Wonder why Picasso’s seem to sell on May 4!?

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932)

Sale date: May 4, 2010

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Sold for: US$ 106.5 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 114.3 million

Seller: Frances Lasker Brody estate

Buyer: Unknown

 

Flag

Flag by Jasper Johns

Flag (1954)

Sale date: March 2010

Artist: Jasper Johns

Sold for: US$ 110 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 118.3 million

Seller: Jean-Christophe Castelli (an Italian-American art dealer)

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen (an American hedge fund manager; founder of SAC Capital Advisors)

The Scream

The Scream by Edvard Munch – Sold in 12 minutes flat

The Scream (1895)

Sale date: March 2010

Artist: Edvard Munch

Sold for: US$ 119.9 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 122.2 million

Seller: Petter Olsen (a Norwegian businessman, billionaire and member of the Olsen shipping family, who own Fred. Olsen & Co.)

Buyer: Leon Black (an American businessman; founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management)

The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later. In 2004, The Scream was stolen from the Munch Museum, and recovered two years later. Well, now, you can lay your hands on a re-print from Engrave without having to risk a heist. Buy it now »

 

Woman III

Woman III by Willem de Kooning

Woman III (1953)

Sale date: November 18, 2006

Artist: Willem de Kooning

Sold for: US$ 137.5 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 159.8 million

Seller: David Geffen (an American business magnate noted for creating Asylum Records, Geffen Records, DGC Records; was also one of the three founders of DreamWorks SKG)

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen (an American hedge fund manager; founder of SAC Capital Advisors)

Le Rêve

Le Rêve by Pablo Picasso

Le Rêve / The Dream (1932)

Sale date: March 26, 2013

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Sold for: US$ 155 million

Adjusted price (as of Sep 2013): US$ 155.9 million

Seller: Steve Wynn (an American business magnate; played a pivotal role in the 1990s resurgence and expansion of the Las Vegas Strip)

Buyer: Steven A. Cohen (an American hedge fund manager; founder of SAC Capital Advisors)

Paintings that can stake a claim to the record

While future records will be decided by choices of the rich and famous, if we had to pick 3 works that we think would get on the ‘most expensive’ list, they’d be:

Las Meninas / The Maids of Honour (1656) by Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

The work’s complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted. Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analyzed works in Western painting.

 

 

 

 

 

The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh

The Starry Night

The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh’s genius hauntingly shines in the vivid colours and swirling clouds of “Starry Night,” perhaps his most popular painting. The painting depicts the view outside his sanatorium room window at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence at night, although it was painted from memory during the day. The original now hangs in the permanent collection in New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

A re-print of ‘The Starry Night’ painting is now available on Engrave for your living room wall. Get it here »

Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso

Guernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Picasso painted Guernica in response to the bombing of Guernica, a Basque Country village in northern Spain by German and Italian warplanes, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. The Spanish Republican government commissioned Picasso to create a large mural for the Spanish display at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

Guernica shows the tragedies of war and the suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians. This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.

A re-print of the Guernica painting is now available on Engrave for your living room wall. Get it here »

To see the entire range of vintage art re-prints on Engrave, click here.