Paying enormous sums for a painting might seem silly to a commoner, but it’s a serious hobby for many rich people and art enthusiasts! Classic artworks by world-famous painters like Da Vinci, Monet, Rembrandt, and Picasso are usually stored securely in museums.

But, a few select masterpieces are circulating among buyers and sellers. These famous paintings get increasingly expensive with inflation. Among these, the most expensive paintings in the world cost hundreds of millions of dollars!

Many collectors in the art world invest in such expensive paintings as status symbols. Apart from wealthy investors, those who run galleries or exhibitions might buy these expensive paintings. Since most of these famous artists have met their demise, the demand for their unique work skyrockets.

However, the supply of the collection these artists painted remains the same, driving up the price. The following list includes the top 15 most expensive paintings sold in descending order, so let’s take a look:

1. Salvator Mundi (1500) by Leonardo Da Vinci at $400 Million

This work of art is an oil-on-canvas painting sized 45 x 65 cm, done on a walnut panel. It portrays Jesus Christ in a blue robe, holding a crystal ball in one hand and signing the cross with the other. In 2017, it became the most expensive painting in the world when Dmitry Rybolovlev sold it at Christie’s New York.

In 1605, King Louis X11 of France commissioned this artwork of the “Savior of the World” (Salvator Mundi) from Leonardo Da Vinci. Even today, you can get paintings commissioned and turn your favorite photos into art.

Robert Simon

Photo Credit: Robert Simon

So, Da Vinci created Salvator Mundi around the same time as Mona Lisa. Strangely, the whereabouts of the painting from 1763 to 1900 are unknown. However, some British art dealers recovered it in 2005 and bought it for $10,000 to study in depth.

They believed it was simply a copy of his work for a while. After six years of examination, these experts identified the use of Da Vinci’s unique art style techniques in the painting. So, the restored portrait was attributed to him and exhibited at the London National Gallery in 2011 for five years. They termed it the “Lost Leonardo” since it was the first of his works to surface since 1909.

In 2017, the Leonardo Da Vinci painting became part of an auction at a contemporary art program offered by the seller Rybolovlev. The bidding went on for 19 minutes, and it was finally sold at $450.5 million to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He purchased it as a representative of the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism. With inflation, its recent price would be around $500 million.

2. Interchange (1955) by Willem de Kooning for $300 Million

This oil-on-canvas painting created by Dutch- American artist Willem de Kooning is 200 x 175 cm in size. This painting has the reputation of being the most expensive painting to be sold privately. In this work, he used Abstract Expressionism, considered the first modern art movement in the US.

The painting reflects the urban surroundings of New York City, where Kooning lived. He typically painted women and used violent brush strokes. Subsequently, he recreated abstract urban landscapes using soft, quick gestural movements. The central focus of the painting is the pink, fleshy mass in the middle, which stands for a seated, reclining woman.

Via Art Institute of Chicago

Photo Credit: Via Art Institute of Chicago

In 2015, the David Geffen Foundation sold Interchange to Hedge fund owner and Billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin, who has a private art collection. Presently, he has loaned the most expensive contemporary painting to the Art Institute of Chicago. Its price could be around $350 million after inflation adjustments.

Jackson Pollock is another contemporary who experimented with this style. Also termed the ‘New York School’ of art, it flourished in the post-World War two era. Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Lee Krasner, and Anne Ryan are other members of the movement. Franz Kline, who encouraged Kooming to switch styles, is also a pioneer.

3. The Card Players (1892) by Paul Cézanne for $250 Million

This oil-on-canvas painting is 97 x 130 cm large and was the most expensive painting ever sold at the time of its sale in 2011. It features two men sitting across from each other at a table, playing cards.

After extensive research, French artist Paul Cézanne created four more versions with the same themes. The other paintings in The Card Players series vary in size, the number of subjects, and their seating positions. They commonly reflect his popular post-impressionist style, wherein the psychology and emotions of the models are intense.

Via Vanity Fair

Photo Credit: Via Vanity Fair

Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos sold this painting to the Royal Family of Qatar in a private sale. Reports have said they paid twice the existing auction record for any artwork, making it one of the most expensive paintings in the art world! Its new price after inflation would be over $300 million.

4. Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (1892) by Paul Gauguin at $210 Million

This oil-on-canvas post-impressionist painting is made 101 x 77 cm by French artist Paul Gauguin. It displays two young women sitting in front of each other in a luscious green and blue earthly setting. Their vibrant red, yellow, and pink clothes contrast the foliage and mountains in the landscape.

Gauguin’s first tour to the island of Tahiti in 1891 inspired this vision, and the trip was just the start of his passion for Tahiti and its native women. Nafea Faa Ipoipo? translates to ‘When Will You Marry?’. Afterward, he created more paintings of Tahitian women in the island setting.

Nafea Faa Ipoipo

Photo Credit: Via Wikipedia

It was sold once in 2015 for $300 Million, making it one of the most expensive paintings at the time. However, the Rudolf Staechelin Family Trust resold it for $210 million later, at a $90 million loss. It has still consistently made the list of the most expensive paintings in the world!

There has been some speculation about precisely who purchased the piece in this private sale. It is now widely believed to be the royal family of Qatar, particularly Sheikha Al-Mayaassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, for their museums. The painting’s inflation-adjusted new price would be around $240 million.

5. Number 17A (1948) by Jackson Pollock at $200 Million

Pollock created this oil painting on a Fiberboard canvas 112 x 86 cm large. He made this abstract expressionist painting using liquid synthetic resin paints on a composition board. He employed techniques like drip painting, which included spattering oil paint across the fiberboard.

You can observe this in the yellow parts of the painting, which seem to trickle down on the canvas! Pollock’s drip method was just a year-old art technique. Life Magazine published it, kickstarting Pollock's artistic career. Many of his works are among the most expensive paintings ever made.

Via Sotheby's

Photo Credit: Via Sotheby's

Hedge Fund Billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin purchased Number 17A from David Geffen along with Interchange in 2015, and he loaned both to the Art Institute of Chicago. Unfortunately, this particular painting is no longer on display anywhere.

But if you want to see Pollock’s other works, you could find them in museums such as the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in NYC. This painting would be worth around $230 million today.

6. The Standard Bearer (1636) by Rembrandt at $197.9 Million

This oil-on-canvas by Rembrandt is a three-quarter-length self-portrait painted on an area of 118.8 x 96.8 cm. In the image, his body angles to his left, but his face looks straight ahead. He has one arm on his waist and the other bearing a flag, hence the title.

Art historians consider Rembrandt one of the pioneers of Dutch baroque painting. This piece is one of his primary first works, and they believe he created it when he moved from Leiden to Amsterdam. The picture has been replicated many times since, from oil to print copies.

The Standard Bearer

Photo Credit: Via Wikimedia Commons

Elie de Rothschild in Paris sold the painting in 2022 to Rijksmuseum, as the Dutch state expressed interest in its purchase in December 2021. Vereniging Rembrandt and the state further enabled the private sale. Since the acquisition was recent, the price would still be around $198 million with inflation.

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7. The Shot Marilyns (1964) by Andy Warhol for $195 Million

Andy Warhol painted a series of five Marylin Manro headshot portraits with silkscreen on canvas called The Marilyns. The square 101.6 x 101.6 cm tiles depicted Marilyn’s face contrasting against various vibrant colored plain backgrounds. This iconic artwork broke the auction record for being the costliest twentieth-century painting.

But the painting wasn’t ‘finished’ yet. Performance artist Dorothy Podber one day walked into the studio and shot these paintings of Marylin between her eyes with a revolver! This violently daring act led to the new name for the series, The Shot Marilyns. Except for the turquoise piece, all the other ones, which include the orange, red, and two blue paintings, got the hit.

 Los Angeles Times

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

Ironically, this spiked the price and popularity of the paintings. The Shot Sage Blue Marylin was part of Christie’s New York City auction on May 9, 2022. The Thomas and Doris Ammann Foundation sold it for $195 Million to Larry Gagosian, which would cost the same now.

In 2018, Kenneth C. Griffin purchased the Orange Marylin from Samuel “Si” Newhouse for his private collection. Even though the exact price discussed at this private sale is unclear, critics believe it to have been “over $200 million”! With inflation, experts estimate it to be around $250 million today. The rest of the prints were also sold separately.

​​Via Artmarket

Photo Credit: Via Artmarket

8. No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) (1951) by Mark Rothko at $186 Million

This contemporary Rothko oil-on-canvas painting is 230 x 137 cm. Latvian- American artist Mark Rothko’s iconic style includes drawing simple rectangular bands of vivid colors. This painting has a sizeable violent band followed by a thinner green and medium red one.

The oil painting is part of the “Bouvier Affair” controversy regarding 36 expensive paintings. Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev accused his art dealer Yves Bouvier of scamming him out of hundreds of millions of dollars by overpricing the pieces. Bouvier did not plead guilty to these allegations of deception, so the case is still going on!

Via Tumblr

Photo Credit: Via Tumblr

As part of this potential fraudulent scheme for which many sued him, art dealer Yves Bouvier sold the painting to Rybolovlev for $186 million in 2014 for his private collection. Inflation might cause this piece to be charged at $213-217 million today. Rumors say that Bunny Melon sold the No.20 of the series titled Yellow Expanse for roughly $200 million!

9. Wasserschlangen II (1904 – 1907) by Gustav Klimt at $183 Million

Gustav Klimt’s oil-on-canvas titled Water Serpents II has 80 x 145 cm dimensions. It is a whimsical portrayal of four water nymphs with subtle homoerotic implications. The painting is a sequel to his Water Serpents I, part of a series on the same theme.

A Viennese magnate's daughter, Jenny Steiner, initially commissioned and purchased this piece. Sadly, the Nazis confiscated the painting from Steiner’s Jewish hands during World War II.

Wasserschlangen II

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

It remained lost in their possession until it resurfaced at an auction house, where Stiener’s heirs also claimed their rights to the painting. The Steiner family then sold it to the art dealer Yves Bouvier.

After misleading him about its value, he sold the painting to Roblyvev in 2013 for $183 million. This incident made it one of the most expensive paintings in the world, and it also became a part of the “Bouvier Affair” court case. In 2015, Roblyveve sold it again for $170 million to an unnamed buyer in another private sale. With inflation, you can expect it to cost around $220 million in today’s market.

10. Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (1634) by Rembrandt at $ 180 Million

These pendant portraits are a set of two oil paintings measuring 209 x 135 each, created by Rembrandt van Rijn. Depicting Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, he made the set to celebrate their imminent marriage. The couple's expensive paintings have always been displayed as a duo rather than individually; many believe it should forever remain unseparated!

Via Louvre and Rijksmuseum

Photo Credit: Via Louvre and Rijksmuseum

The Rothschild family decided to sell the set in 2015, and at the time, the paintings had barely seen the light of day. Both the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre Museum in Paris expressed their interest in these unseen Rembrandt pieces.

Ultimately, the two museums purchased them together for their first public display, paying 50-50. The museums have decided to take turns exhibiting the expensive paintings without splitting the pair. Today’s inflation would drive its price up to $206 million.

11. Les Femmes d’ Alger (“Version O”) (1955) by Picasso at $179.4 Million

This Picasso piece is an abstract oil-on-canvas painting measuring 114 x 146 cm. It is the last of the 15 pictures in the series, which consists of modern renditions of Eugene Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers in their Apartment. The collection title translates to ‘Women of Algiers’ and is considered Picasso’s tribute to Henri Matisse.

Les Femmes d’ Alger

Photo Credit: Via Wikipedia

The couple Sally and Victor Ganz originally owned the piece, and later the Saidenberg Gallery acquired it for $31.9 million. In May 2015, at Christie’s New York, they auctioned and sold it again at $179 million. The buyer isn’t determined, but speculations claim to be the ex-Prime Minister of Qatar, Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabar Al Thani. Today, the artwork might cost over $205 Million.

12. Nu Couché (1917) by Amedeo Modigliani for $170 Million

The “Reclining Nude” is a famous oil painting of size 60 x 92 cm. It is possibly the most expensive nude painting out there. In the image, you can see a naked woman lying on her back atop a red sofa with blue cushions.

Famous painter Amedeo Modigliani unveiled it in 1917 at Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris, where he held his solo art exhibition. At this one-person show, the sultry paintings gathered a lot of hype and curiosity. It almost surmounted a scandal, with authorities needing to shut down the display prematurely.

Via Tablet Magazine

Photo Credit: Via Tablet Magazine

This Italian artist created 22 other reclining nudes in various backdrops throughout his career. He began working on them when Polish art dealer Léopold Zborowski commissioned the series.

Chinese Billionaire Liu Yiqian purchased Nu Couché from a private seller for $170.4 million on November 9th, 2015. A once taxi driver with a rags-to-riches story, he became wealthy by opening private museums in Shanghai. Rumors claim he sealed the deal with a single swipe of his American Express Card! Nu couché would cost around $200 million with inflation adjustments.

13. Masterpiece (1962) by Roy Lichtenstein at $ 165

Masterpiece uses acrylic and silkscreen ink on a square 137 x 137 cm canvas to replicate a comic book panel. It follows a pop artwork style, using Liechtenstein’s iconic Ben-Day dots and dialogue in a speech bubble. It is one of the most valuable paintings in the world. “Look Mickey” and “Whaam!” are other expensive paintings he created in the same style.

He talked more about his work, revealing that a comic book illustration he saw inspired him. In the image, two characters had their faces side by side at a similar angle, although they were in a car. He also spoke about his choice of the name ‘Brad’ being a simple yet clichéd, typical name for a hero.

Roy Lichtenstein

Photo Credit: Via Wikipedia

Private art collector Agnes Gund possessed the picture for some years when she put it up over the mantle of her Upper East Side, New York residence. In 2017, she sold it to another equally passionate art enthusiast, SAC Capital’s Steven A. Cohen, for his private collection. She launched the Art for Justice fund against mass incarceration and systemic judicial bias with the amount received. With inflation, the expensive painting would fetch almost $180 million now.

14. Nu couché (Sur le côté Gauche) by Amedeo Modigliani for $170 Million

Nu couché (Sur le côté Gauche) is another one of Modigliani’s renaissance inspired nudes. It is part of the ‘Reclining Nude’ series. In this picture, a woman lies on a white bed on her left side, her back and face turned to the viewer. This piece is also one of the most expensive paintings in the world.

David Nahmad auctioned off Nu couché (Sur le côté Gauche) for $157 million to a private collector at Sotheby’s New York in 2018. This expensive painting would be even more valuable after inflation. Nu couché (Sur le côté Gauche) would be worth around $173 million today.

Via Pixels

Photo Credit: Via Pixels

15. Le Rêve (1932) by Pablo Picasso at $155 Million

Yet another Picasso piece made it to the list of the top 15 most expensive paintings in existence! “The Dream” is an oil painting portrait on canvas, 130 x 97 cm large. Its subject is his mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, comfortably seated on a red armchair and seemingly dozing with her head on her right shoulder. He uses bold colors and lines to make distorted representations.

She was 22 years of age at the time, and he was 50 when he painted the picture in the span of one afternoon on January 24th. The sensual painting faced some heat from art critics for its hidden sexual content. This symbolism includes, for example, an image of the male genitalia on the subject’s face, visible upon closer inspection.

Succession Picasso

Photo Credit: Succession Picasso/DACS London

Casino big-shot Steve Wynn owned the piece for 12 years. He first attempted a private sale agreement on the painting with hedge fund billionaire Steven A. Cohen in 2006. However, he couldn’t proceed with the deal because he accidentally elbowed and damaged the picture.

Its value went down, and he required time to restore it. But on March 26, 2013, Wynn finally managed to sell it to him for $155 million for his private collection. Today, considering inflation, it would cost over $180 million.

16. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II (1912) by Gustav Klimt at $150 Million

Another Klimt piece under this category is a 190 x 120 cm sized oil painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer. It is the second and lesser popular portrait among the two he created of this elite Viennese woman, who was his friend. It is a full-length, straight-view image in a colorful setting.

These expensive paintings have quite a long history as well. Nazis stole both portraits from Bloch-Bauer’s family home during World War II. Post-war, the Österreichische Galerie Belvedere Museum recovered and displayed the Portrait of Adele Bloch for a few years before returning it to Bloch-Bauer’s niece in the 2000s.

Via Arthive

Photo Credit: Via Arthive

At the Christie’s New York Auction in November 2006, Oprah Winfrey bought the painting for $88 million. Back then, this Portrait of Adele Bloch ranked fourth among the most expensive paintings ever sold. In the fall of 2014, she loaned the piece to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. One could value this portrait at around $170 after inflation.

In 2016, she sold the painting for $150 million to a Chinese buyer, yet to be identified. They then gave it to the Neue Galerie New York. Here, it was displayed short-term for an exhibition titled “Klimt and the Women of Vienna’s Golden Age, 1900–1918.”

17. Three Studies of Lucien Freud (1969) by Francis Bacon at $142.2 Million

This painting is a 198 x 147 cm large oil-on-canvas triptych of Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon’s artistic rival and friend. The English artist met Freud through a mutual friend, Graham Sutherland, in 1945. Through frequent rendezvous, they built a strong bond with each other.

The pair would use each other as muses for their paintings, a tradition that commenced in 1951 with Freud’s first sitting for Bacon. In the 1970s, a seller separated the three panels for a sale, which upset Francis Bacon. He claimed that the set was only complete and meaningful when united. According to Christie’s, their friendship was at its prime when he painted Three Studies of Lucien Freud.

Three Studies of Lucien Freud

Credit: 2013 Estate of Francis Bacon/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London

In 2013, at the Christie’s New York auction, Elaine Wynn purchased the piece from Francesco De Simone Niquesa for $142.2 million. It was the most expensive painting ever sold at its time, a significant feat in the contemporary category until Picasso’s Les Femmes d’ Alger broke the record. Today, it would cost around $165-169 million after inflation.

18. Twelve Landscape Screens (1925) by Qi Baishi at $140.8 Million

Qi Baishi Created this painting using ink brushes on a set of 12 panels sized 180 x 47 cm each by artist Qi Baishi. Considered the most important 20th-century Chinese painter, he created the screens when he was 62. He became the first artist from China to sell their works for more than $100 million.

These panels beautifully depict the scenic charm of various locations. Art historians have deduced that Qi Baishi created these landscape screens after journeying throughout China. He made them for a leading Beijing doctor called Chen Zilin. It is the hugest set of the “twelve landscape screens” series he created. Only two of these are known to exist.

Twelve Landscape Screens

Credit: Poly Beijing

The paintings first appeared at a China Artists Association launch presentation. In 1985, a year after his death, these panels were depicted at an exhibition to honor Qi Baishi’s work. Two unknown parties privately traded the screens between them at the Poly Beijing Auction in December 2017. They made the private sale at $140.8 million, which would be approximately $155- 158 million with inflation.

19. No. 5 (1948) by Jackson Pollock for $140 Million

No.5 is another one of Pollock’s works to be among the most expensive paintings in the world. It is an oil-on-fiberboard abstract expressionist painting 2.4 m long and 1.2 m tall. He has created an image of a thick bird’s nest-like design using the dripping method with brown, grey, white, and yellow colors.

Part of the same series to which No.17A belongs, this valuable painting is created similarly using liquid synthetic resin paints. Although he used gloss enamel in the artwork, curators typically classify it as oil paint.

Major art collector David Geffen privately sold the piece to an unknown buyer on May 22, 2006. Many speculate that the buyer is Mexican billionaire David Martinez. Although the correct value of the private sale is uncertain, experts agree $140 million is accurate. At the time, it was the most expensive contemporary painting ever sold, indicating a rising market interest in modern art styles. With today’s inflation, it would be around $188.

Jackson Pollock


However, the painting from the 2006 sale turned out to be a replica. A year later, artist Alfonso A. Ossorio purchased this piece for $1500! This piece got damaged at his house, and Pollock got ready to fix it. Interestingly enough, he eventually painted No. 5 all over again.

20. Woman III by Willem de Kooning for $137.5 Million

Another product of the abstract expressionist movement is this famous oil-on-canvas painting, measuring 172 cm by 123 cm. The painting by the Dutch artist is among the 6-part series focusing on female models. This particular piece features the almost-full figure of a standing woman. T. Hess described one of these women as a “black goddess,” a painting many consider a masterpiece.

The Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art held the painting from the 1970s till 1994. During the Iranian revolution in 1979, the government issued certain rules regarding what creators could express through the visual arts. Since they considered Woman III offensive, its display came to a halt. Thomas Ammann Fine Art bartered the painting with David Geffen in exchange for parts of a Persian manuscript.


Credit: Arthive

Entertainment tycoon David Geffen sold Woman III to Steven A. Cohen for $137.5 million. At the time, this private sale made the piece the third most expensive painting in the world. This painting is the only piece in a private collection from Kooning’s “Woman” series. Many consider it to be the most critical postwar artwork in private hands. Inflation would spike the price of the painting to $189 million now.

21. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (1907) by Gustav Klimt at $135 Million

The more popular of the two, this is the first portrait of Adele Bloch Klimt painted. It uses gold, silver, and oil-on-canvas, measuring 138 x 138 cm. Her spouse Ferdinand Block-Bauer, a finance merchant, commissioned the piece from the Austrian artist. The picture shows Adele Boch in a yellow expanse, looking straight ahead. Some title the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I “The Lady in Gold.”

As mentioned before, the Nazis snatched this painting from this Jewish family. Austriaische Galerie Belvedere displayed it in 1941. In 2006, The state finally returned it to the rightful Bloch-Bauer descendant Maria Altman after a legal battle for five paintings. These are among the many other paintings the family commissioned and possessed.

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer

Credit: Wikipedia

In the same year the family reclaimed rights to the canvas portrait, the Russian cosmetic tycoon Ronald Lauder acquired it from her. The billionaire bought the piece for this art collection through a private sale for $135 million. New York’s Neue Galerie presently exhibits it. Inflation would value this portrait of Adele Boch at $185 million today.
Many other expensive paintings, such as Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, are not for sale. With inflation, this da Vinci classic will cost over $830 million today! Most of these paintings have such a high price because their famed creators are no more, which minimizes the supply of their work.

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

If you’re wondering if any living artist has earned millions for their paintings, the answer is yes. Jasper Johns sold one of his works for a whopping $110 million to Steven A. Cohen in 2010. However, its price significantly went down in a 2014 auction.

So, these are the top 15 most expensive paintings ever sold till now. Art experts and wealthy collectors who own these masterpieces may lend them to museums. Or, they might sell these expensive paintings to the highest bidders in an auction, especially if their values have significantly increased.

In this way, these priceless artworks circulate among art enthusiasts. Who knows, maybe one day you can get your hands on one of these epic, famous paintings- keep dreaming!

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