If you are interested in art, you probably fully acknowledge that most paintings are priceless. Hence, it is hard to say exactly which paintings are the most expensive in the world, especially if you take into consideration that they are in famous museums and will probably never be sold to any private collector. That is, for example, the case with the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It is absolutely impossible to put a price tag on Mona Lisa, but the insurance value was set to one hundred million dollars back in 1962, which is almost 800 000 000 dollars if counted with inflation, in 2016 dollars. Here is, though, a quick list of the biggest art deals we know about:
When Will You Marry, by Paul Gauguin
Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin was a French artist who both painted, made sculptures, and worked with ceramics throughout his life. After feeling deeply ashamed of what was happening to Europe at the time (Gauguin felt that Europe had become to artificial), he went to French Polynesia, in particular the island of Tahiti, where he painted several gorgeous paintings depicting the “pure” life he saw on the primitive island. His painting, When Will You Marry, featuring two young women in a rural setting in Tahiti, was sold for an incredible sum of 300 million dollars to a Qatari sheikh last year, in 2015.
The Card Players, by Paul Cézanne
About the same time as Paul Gauguin was painting his beautiful, colourful works, another French artist, Paul Cézanne, went home to his family farm in the south of France and picked two working-class men to serve as models for his most famous paintings of all time – The Card Players. This painting, depicting two card players sitting opposing each other on a small table and playing cards, was sold for almost 300 million dollars as well, also to an unnamed Qatari sheikh. This was back in 2011, and the deal held the record as the most expensive art transaction up until When Will You Marry was bought by the same oil-rich family.
Les Femmes d´Alger, by Pablo Picasso
This famous work of art was painted in 15 different variations, but the Version O was the very first one and it’s considered the main work of Pablo Picasso, which is owned privately. The painting was sold for a whopping 180 million dollars, and is a colourful work of art. Picasso was inspired by a French master who painted these women in their humble apartment back in the 19th century.
Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, by Rembrandt
Paintings by Rembrandt are priceless, just like many other works of art from before the 19th century, but these two full-length portraits made by Rembrandt in the mid 1600s were sold for 180 million dollars, from the Rothschild family to the Louvre and Rijksmuseum, who agreed to pay half of the asking price each.
No 5, 1948, by Jackson Pollock
Much is unknown in regards to this purchase, but this huge painting on fibreboard by Jackson Pollock was sold at Sotheby´s in 2006 for the price of 165 million dollars. It is a mystery to this day who exactly purchased the painting, as the alleged buyer David Martinez has denied buying this intricate work of art.
Nu couché, by Amedeo Modigliani
Amedeo Modigliani has created several stunning pieces of art throughout his life, but none of his works can compare to Nu couché, a painting from 1917 which was sold for a stunning 170 million dollars in an auction at Christie´s in New York, just last year, 2015. This erotic painting is among several nudes that Modigliani painted at the very beginning of the 20th century.
Bal du moulin de Galette, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Renoir has made a whole lot of priceless paintings, but Bal du moulin de Galette is probably the most famous of them all. It was purchased by a Japanese art collector in 1990 for 78 million dollars, which would be 141 million in 2016, adjusted for inflation.
Salvator Mundi, by Leonardo da Vinci
Now, this one is probably the most expensive work of art by da Vinci held in private hands. The painting, dating back to the 16th century, was lost for almost an eternity before being rediscovered and sold to a Russian businessman in 2013. The price? A whopping 129 million dollars. Salvator Mundi depicts Jesus Christ, and was (allegedly) painted by Leonardo da Vinci on request from Louis XII of France.
Portrait of Dr. Gachet, by Vincent van Gogh
Vincent van Gogh is one of the most famous artists in history, not only because of his original paintings and the way he transformed colours into shapes, but also because of his life. Most notably, he cut off his own ear and sent it to a woman he loved. Portrait of Dr. Gachet was sold to the same Japanese collector we mentioned previously, for approximately the same amount as the Renoir painting (149 million dollars). Dr. Gachet was the doctor who took care of van Gogh in his final stages of life, and the painter himself said that he had found “a brother, both physically and mentally” in his doctor. Unfortunately, the whereabouts of the paintings is unknown at this stage, as the Japanese collector Saito died in debt and it is believed that some paintings were used to pay off the money he owed.
Le Rêve, by Pablo Picasso
This is one of the later works of art from the famous Spanish painter, resembling his young mistress sitting in a chair, half of her face resembling a penis. This was probably Pablo depicting himself metaphorically, and the erotic content was criticised by early viewers. Initially, Le Rêve (translates as The Dream from French) was sold for 7000 dollars, back in 1941. Less then a hundred years later, in 2013, it was sold to Steven Cohen for more than 150 million dollars, making it the second most expensive piece of art from Pablo Picasso.