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5 Most Expensive Paintings of All Time: Da Vinci to de Kooning

Are you also fascinated by the world of luxury art? Have you ever wondered how certain paintings are designated fine art and given million dollar price tags? In this article, Singulart breaks down the five most expensive paintings of all time.

While you might think a work like the Mona Lisa would certainly top the list, pieces like Leonardo’s famous portrait and other masterpieces of similar historic significance are generally thought to be priceless. Since the most famous artworks in existence are all already housed in museums, they are unlikely to ever reach an auction house. Thus, their market value can not be estimated.

The five artworks discussed below, however, have all had their moment on the auction block. These artworks represent the five most expensive paintings of all time.

#5: Number 17A by Jackson Pollock

While it may seem difficult to believe that a painting of chaotic lines and splashes could be one of the most expensive paintings of all time, that’s exactly the case with Jackson Pollock‘s Number 17A. In September 2015 the painting by the deceased abstract expressionist sold to billionaire Kenneth C. Griffin for $200 million US.

#4: Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) by Paul Gauguin

Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) is an 1892 oil painting by French Post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. On loan to the Kunstmuseum in Basel, Switzerland for almost a half-century, the painting was sold privately by the family of Rudolf Staechelin in February of 2015. The buyer? Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani who paid close to $210 million US for the work.

#3: The Card Players by Paul Cézanne

The Card Players is a series of five oil paintings by the French Post-Impressionist Paul Cézanne. The five paintings, all depicting various card players, were made during Cézanne’s final artistic period in the early 1890s. One such version of The Card Players was sold in a private sale to the Royal Family of Qatar for a price estimated at $250 million US in 2011. The painting was sold by Greek shipping tycoon George Embiricos who amassed an impressive art collection over his career that included works by Goya, Kandinsky, Picasso, van Gogh and Bacon.

#2: Interchange by Willem de Kooning

Interchange, sometimes referred to as ‘Interchanged’, is an oil painting by renowned Dutch-American abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. The large-scale work, measuring 200.7 by 175.3 centimeters, was sold in September 2015 for $300 million US. That’s $317.1 million by today’s dollar. The sale represented a new record for the highest ever price paid for a painting by any artist. Interchange remains on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.

#1: Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci

The sale of de Kooning’s Interchange held the record for the world’s most expensive painting until 2017. The record was broken by the sale of Da Vinci’s famed Salvator Mundi on November 15. The painting was purchased at auction by Badr bin Abdullah Al Saud, Minister of Culture to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, however it is possible that the masterpiece was bought on behalf of Al Saud’s close associate, Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The final bidding price was $450.3 million US. The painting was sold by Dmitry Yevgenyevich Rybolovlev, a Russian businessman and investor. A report in June 2019 stated that the painting is being stored on bin Salman’s luxury yacht, awaiting completion of a cultural center in the city of Al-`Ula.

Although several leading Renaissance scholars have dubbed Salvator Mundi to be an original work by Leonardo, the attribution has been disputed by others who hypothesize that the painting could have been made by one of Da Vinci’s apprentices. The painting was most likely commissioned by Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany.

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