There is no doubt that many people agree that most of the famous works of art found in the world's museums and private collections are priceless.
Being one of a kind, it is difficult to assign a value to many famous paintings; however, almost daily, art is bought and sold, often at exorbitant prices that most will never be able to afford. But there are some eccentric buyers who can indulge themselves.
Kuadros offers a compilation of the 5 most expensive famous paintings in history.
No.1 Salvator Mundi (Christ the Savior of the World) - Leonardo da Vinci ($450.3 Million)
In May 2008, some of the famous painter's top experts stood around an easel in a studio high above Trafalgar Square. The object they had been invited to examine, in the conservation department of the National Gallery, was a painting on a walnut panel. It showed a long-haired, bearded man looking straight ahead with one hand raised in blessing and the other holding a transparent sphere.
Leonardo paints Salvator Mundi possibly for King Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany. The haunting oil painting on a 66-centimeter panel depicts a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World, seen from the front and dressed in Renaissance-era robes. In this famous painting, Leonardo depicts Christ as characterized in the Gospel of John 4:14: "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the savior of the world." Christ stares at the viewer, lightly bearded with brown curls, holding a crystal sphere in his left hand and offering a blessing with his right.
The painting disappeared from 1763 to 1900, when it was purchased by Sir Charles Robinson as the work of Bernardino Luini, a follower of Leonardo. It then appeared at Sotheby's in England in 1958. It then disappeared again until it was sold at a small US auction house in 2005.
Like many of Leonardo's surviving works, this famous painting was not in perfect condition when it resurfaced in the early 2000s. It required extensive restoration. Although there are some respected experts on Renaissance art who dispute the attribution of the painting to Leonardo, which ultimately sold at auction at Christie's in New York in November 2017 for $450 million, a new record price for a work by famous art. The buyer was not disclosed.
Today it is considered a fake painting.
No.2 Exchange - Willem de Kooning (US$300 million)
The idea of tackling the primitive was pioneered by Gauguin, but could be discerned in part in the work of de Kooning.
While we love exploring the less tangible qualities of abstract art, we're also well aware that it can be a wonderful financial investment. To date, the most expensive abstract art painting ever sold is a landscape by Willem de Kooning called Interchange, which sold for $300 million in 2015. The famous painting fetched that record price in a private sale to the fund manager. insurance agent in Chicago, Kenneth Griffin, as part of a $500 million package that also included Jackson Pollock's painting Number 17A.
The Jackson Pollock painting that Kenneth Griffin purchased along with Exchange was featured in the 1949 Life Magazine spread that made Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism well known. Few paintings more succinctly capture a moment in time. That magazine article was one of the main reasons that de Kooning and the other abstract expressionists were finally able to make a living from their art. Together, these two famous paintings represent the moment when the United States gave birth to its first movement of native modern art. Exchange is not only valuable as an object. Its value is in its myth.
Stylistically, Intercambio marks one of the most transformative eras in the career of one of the most important abstract artists of the 20th century. As well as being an influential painter, Willem de Kooning was a vital connecting force among his contemporaries. He was a friend and animator of Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and dozens of other abstract expressionists.
During the period when these artists struggled, De Kooning remained a passionate animator for his work. The Interchange was painted just as the fortunes of de Kooning and his contemporaries were undergoing a massive turnaround. They were becoming financially stable, many for the first time, which meant they had the opportunity to make new decisions, both professionally and personally. For de Kooning, this manifested itself in a gradual taming of his notoriously wild lifestyle, culminating in a move to a farm in East Hampton.
Creatively, De Kooning manifested himself over a period of 11 years devoting himself to painting abstract landscapes, of which Interchange was one of the first works.
No.3 The Card Players - Paul Cezanne (estimated US$250–300 million)
The Card Players is a series of impressionist paintings by French modernist Paul Cezanne. One of his most ambitious projects, now seen as a major contribution to modern art. Although painted during Cezanne's final period, they represent some of the best genre painting of the French School. There are five versions in the series, each varying in content and size: one is in a private collection, the others are in the Musée d'Orsay, the Courtauld Gallery, the Barnes Foundation, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The private version was purchased in 2011 by the Royal Family of Qatar for an estimated $250 million to $300 million. Cezanne is famous for his still life or still life painting, and art historians believe that he chose the subject of cards because the people who played the game were essentially a form of human still life.
He was probably also influenced by the Nain brothers (1599-1677) whose card players (c.1642) were in the collection of their local art museum in Aix-en-Provence.
The two men study their cards carefully, but no move seems imminent. The details of the game have regressed even further and life has calmed down. Cézanne's Card Players, like many of his figures, occupy a space between figure painting and object painting. They move between different genres.
By the 1890s Cézanne was independently wealthy; he could comfortably afford his models to pose, and the resulting works were made from industrially produced pigments, usually applied to commercially manufactured standard-size canvas. Around the same time the series ended, the artist entered into a relationship with a Parisian painting dealer, Ambroise Vollard, who later became the first owner of the famous canvas. Vollard's business ledgers record that he made a handsome profit from the work, buying it for 250 francs and, in early 1900, selling it for 4,500. However, the enduring appeal of Cézanne's The Card Players may be due to the way the five paintings provide a distinctive contrast to the modern capitalism that surrounded their creation. If life can seem ever faster, shallower and more mercenary, then perhaps some solace can be found here, in our longstanding commitment to handmade canvases that showcase a timeless, grounded and sociable hobby.
No.4 Nafea Faa Ipoipo? (When Will You Get Married?) - Paul Gaugain (US$300 million)
A younger woman in traditional dress stretches forward on the ground. She is looking back, and partially obscured is a more matronly figure in Western-style dress who raises her hand in a gesture of importance. The flower behind the girl's ear is a traditional Tahitian symbol by which nubile women signal readiness for marriage. At the bottom of the image there is an inscription in the language: "NAFEA Faa ipoipo", which translates as: "When will you get married?"
In 1891, the founding father of primitivism, Eugene Henri Paul Gauguin traveled to Tahiti in search of an Edenic paradise where he could create pure, primitive art.
By escaping European society, technology, and cultural traditions, Gauguin hoped to capture intact primitive spiritual societies of the modern world. But the Polynesian reality did not meet Gauguin's expectations of primitive rural life. Tahiti was colonized as early as the 18th century, so when the artist arrived there he couldn't find the culture he was longing for. Unfortunately two-thirds of the native population were killed by European diseases, and the indigenous religion was destroyed by Catholic and Mormon missionaries.
Gaugin successfully settled into local life and had taken a young woman named Teha'amana as his native wife. Their marriage was arranged by the girl's family, who considered it a great privilege for their daughter to marry a white man, whereas for Gauguin it was an informal union by any European standards. And although his Tahitian life was not as primitive as Gauguin had anticipated, he stayed to live there. During that period, he produced several of his best-known "Gauguin paintings" of Tahitian women, and Teha'amana was most likely the model for many of these images.
Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When will you get married?), has recently been discussed as one of the most expensive famous works in history, selling for almost $300 million in 2015, with the Qatar Museum being the buyer. Gauguin (1848-1903) was not a particularly popular artist while he was alive, and it was only after his death at the age of fifty-four that his talent was fully recognized. His artwork is distinguished by its bold experimentation with color and synth styling.
The famous painter Gauguin is considered to have a great influence on the French avant-garde, as well as 20th-century artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Henri Matisse.
No.5 Number 17A - Jackson Pollock (US$200 million)
This work of abstract art was created in 1948 by the famous American abstract expressionist painter Jason Pollock. It was made with oil paint on a wood fiber canvas. It is an example of Pollock's drip painting series, and one of the earlier pieces in this series. No. 17A lacks any kind of creative title and is one of the best examples of the radical and exceptionally unique art form of drip painting, which Pollock introduced to the world in 1947. Although such painting appears to occur at random and spontaneously, one can really trace the precise movement and control that Pollock had in creating this piece. Initially these drip paintings by Pollock were met with great public scrutiny and were mostly unpopular and thus of little value in the art markets.
This extreme form of abstraction divided critics, with some praising the immediacy of creation, while others derided the random effects.
Remember the astonishing $500 million dollars that Ken Griffin spent on two paintings from David Geffen's collection? Well, the second painting, bought for an equally impressive $200 million, was Number 17A.
This makes No. 17A the fifth most expensive famous painting ever sold in history. Prior to this sale, the famous painting had been on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.