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The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold | reviews, news & interviews

The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

Leonardo's disputed Salvator Mundi has just topped the list. Who else is on it?

Look into my eyes, look into my eyes: Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci (?)

Yesterday the record for the most expensive painting ever sold was broken. At Christie's in New York Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi the hammer was knocked down on a price of $450 million. It's a lot of money, period, and even more for a painting which some doubt is by Leonardo at all. One doubter insists that Leonardo the great scientist would have refracted the light through the orb in Christ's hands. That won't bother the buyer, whose identity is unknown.

Salvator Mundi soars to the top of the list of the 75 most expensive paintings sold in the last 30 years. The recent Leonardo discovery was already on the list at no 19, having sold for $131.1 million in 2012. It now soars high above Willem De Kooning's Interchange ($300 million, sold 2015). Salvator Mundi is also the earliest work in the list. The newest is Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled, painted in 1982 ($110.5 million, 2017).

This list is based on prices at current values calculated by Wikipedia. It strays back three decades to the purchase of two Van Goghs. The big market surge came in 1989 when the record for an old master – Pontormo's Portrait of a Halberdier – was sold to the Getty Museum for what is now $68 million. The 1990s was a fallow decade in which only two painters could command high prices: Van Gogh (four entries) and Picasso (two). In 2006 the market suddenly rose for post-war work by De Kooning, Johns and Pollock. That year three paintings were sold for the equivalent of more than $160 million.

While paintings continued to go for eye-watering sums, the record held until 2011 when Cézanne’s The Card Players was sold for $259 million. The market has been at its most obscenely inflated in recent years. Seven of the top 75 sales happened in 2012, five in 2013, six in 2014, nine in 2015, five in 2016, and two this year (the other entry for 2017 is Roy Lichtenstein's Masterpiece.) The overwhelming majority of these works ended up in private hands.

The artists with the most entries hold few surprises. Picasso: 13. Van Gogh: eight. Warhol: seven. Rothko: six. De Kooning: four. Cézanne, Modigliani, Titian, Bacon: three. Johns, Monet, Lichtenstein, Klimt, Pollock, Newman: two.

Below is the list of the top, while the gallery overleaf shows some of the top 75, leading towards the most expensive in history.

  1. Leonardo da Vinci: Salvator Mundi - $131.1m, sold 2012 De Kooning: Interchange - $300m, sold 2015
  2. Gauguin: Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) - $300m, sold 2015
  3. Cézanne: The Card Players - $259m, sold 2011
  4. Pollock: Number 17A - $202m, sold 2015
  5. Rothko: No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) - $188m, sold 2014
  6. Rembrandt: Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit - $182m, sold 2015
  7. Picasso: Les Femmes d'Alger ("Version O") - $181.2m, sold 2012
  8. Modigliani: Nu Couché - $172.2m, sold 2015
  9. Pollock: No. 5, 1948 - $166.3m, sold 2006
  10. De Kooning: Woman III - $163.4m, sold 2006
  11. Klimt: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - $160.4m, sold 2006
  12. Picasso: Le Rêve - $159.4m, sold 2013
  13. Van Gogh: Portrait of Dr. Gachet - $151.2m, sold 1990
  14. Klimt: Adele Bloch-Bauer II - $150m, sold 2016
  15. Lichtenstein: Masterpiece - $150m, sold 2017
  16. Bacon: Three Studies of Lucian Freud - $146.4m, sold 2013
  17. Renoir: Bal du moulin de la Galette - $143.2m, sold 1990
  18. Picasso: Garçon à la pipe - $132.1m, sold 2004
  19. Munch: The Scream - $125.1m, sold 2012
  20. Modigliani: Reclining Nude With Blue Cushion - $123m, sold 2012
  21. Johns: Flag - $120.8m, sold 2010
  22. Picasso: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust - $116.9m, sold 2010
  23. Van Gogh: Portrait of Joseph Roulin - $115.9m, sold 1989
  24. Van Gogh: Irises - $113.6m, sold 1987
  25. Picasso: Dora Maar au Chat - $113.1m, sold 2006
  26. Warhol: Eight Elvises - $111.2m, sold 2008
  27. Basquiat: Untitled - $110.5m, sold 2017
  28. Newman: Anna's Light - $108.7m, sold 2013
  29. Warhol: Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) - $108.4m, sold 2013
  30. Van Gogh: Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe - $105.1m, sold 1998
  31. Cézanne: La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue du bosquet du Château Noir - $103m, sold 2013
  32. Rubens: Massacre of the Innocents - $102.1m, sold 2002
  33. Lichtenstein: Nurse - $96.4m, sold 2016
  34. Bacon: Triptych, 1976 - $96m, sold 2008
  35. Picasso: Les Noces de Pierrette - $95.3m, sold 1905
  36. Johns: False Start - $95m, sold 2006
  37. Van Gogh: A Wheatfield with Cypresses - $94.5m, sold 1993
  38. Picasso: Yo, Picasso - $92.5m, sold 1989
  39. Warhol: Turquoise Marilyn - $92.4m, sold 2007
  40. Titian: Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos, Marquis of Vasto, in Armour with a Page - $91.1m, sold 2003
  41. Rothko: Orange, Red, Yellow - $90.6m, sold 2012
  42. Monet: Le Bassin aux Nymphéas - $89.6m, 2008
  43. Cézanne: Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier - $87m, 1989
  44. Newman: Black Fire I - $85.1m, 2014
  45. Rothko: White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) - $84.1m, 200
  46. Van Gogh: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers - $83.6m, 1987
  47. Warhol: Triple Elvis - $82.9m, 2014
  48. Warhol: Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) - $82.8m, 2007
  49. Rothko: No 10 - $82.8, sold 2015
  50. Monet: Meule - $81.4m, sold 2016
  51. Bacon: Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards - $81.7m, 2014
  52. Holbein: Darmstadt Madonna - est. $80m, 2011
  53. Titian: Diana and Actaeon - $78.8m, 2009
  54. Picasso: Au Lapin Agile - $78.6m, 1989
  55. Eakins: The Gross Clinic - $78.5m, 2007
  56. Rothko: No 1 (Royal Red and Blue) - $78.4m, 2012
  57. Picasso: Acrobate et jeune arlequin - $78m, 1988
  58. Picasso: Femme aux bras croisés - $76.5m, 2000
  59. Modigliani: Nude Sitting on a Divan ("La Belle Romaine") $75.7m, 2010
  60. De Kooning: Police Gazette - $75.4m, 2006
  61. Titian: Diana and Callisto - $74.8m, 2012
  62. Twombly: Untitled (New York City) - $71.3m, 2015
  63. Picasso: Femme assise dans un jardin - $71.2m, 1999
  64. Van Gogh: Peasant Woman Against a Background of Wheat - $70.9m, 1997
  65. Twombly: Untitled - $70.4m, 2014
  66. Warhol: Four Marlons - $70.4m, 2014
  67. Qi Baishi: Eagle Standing on Pine Tree - $69.7, 2011
  68. Warhol: Men in Her Life - $69.6m, 2010
  69. Picasso: La Gommeuse - $68.2m, 2015
  70. Picasso: Buste de femme (Femme à la résille) - $68.1m, 2015
  71. Pontormo: Portrait of a Halberdier - $68m, 1989
  72. Van Gogh: L’Allée des Alyscamps - $67m, 2015
  73. De Kooning: Untitled XXV - $66.3m, 2016
  74. Rothko: Untitled - $67m, 2016

Overleaf: browse a gallery of the world's most expensive paintings

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