These are the top 10 most expensive painting ever sold. The list has been adjusted for inflation but we have also listed the original price. Some of the world’s famous paintings like Mona Lisa are not listed here as they are owned by museums and are rarely sold. Only Pablo Picasso (2) features in the list more than once.
#10 Three Studies of Lucian Freud
Artist: Francis Bacon Year: 1969 Adjusted Price (in millions): $144.2
Original Price (in millions): $142.4 Date of Sale: November 12, 2013 Rank at Sale: 7
This triptych by famous Irish-born British figurative painter Francis Bacon depicts British artist Lucian Michael Freud, who was his friend and artistic rival. They were among the leading painters of their generation. At the time of its sale, this painting created the record for the highest price attained at auction while not accounting for inflation.
#9 Portrait of Dr. Gachet
Artist: Vincent van Gogh Year: 1890 Adjusted Price (in millions): $148.9
Original Price (in millions): $82.5 Date of Sale: May 15, 1990 Rank at Sale: 1
One of the most revered paintings by Van Gogh; it depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, who took care of him during the final months of his life. According to Van Gogh, the sensitive face of the doctor carried “the heartbroken expression of our time“.
#8 Le Rêve
Artist: Pablo Picasso Year: 1932 Adjusted Price (in millions): $156.9
Original Price (in millions): $155 Date of Sale: March 26, 2013 Rank at Sale: 5
In Le Reve Pablo Picasso portrays his 22 year old mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. It is said he painted it in one afternoon. There has been critical analysis of the erotic content of the portrayed with some critics noting that Picasso painted an erect penis, presumably symbolizing his own, in the upturned face of his model.
#7 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I
Artist: Gustav Klimt Year: 1907 Adjusted Price (in millions): $157.9
Original Price (in millions): $135 Date of Sale: June 18, 2006 Rank at Sale: 1
Klimt took three years to complete the painting. The painting shows elaborate and complex ornamentation as seen in the Jugendstil style. Bloch-Bauer was the only model who was painted twice by Klimt.
#6 Woman III
Artist: Willem de Kooning Year: 1953 Adjusted Price (in millions): $160.9
Original Price (in millions): $137.5 Date of Sale: November 18, 2006 Rank at Sale: 2
Woman III is a painting by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning. From 1979 to 1994 this painting could not be shown because of strict rules set by the government about the visual arts and what they depict.
#5 No. 5, 1948
Artist: Jackson Pollock Year: 1948 Adjusted Price (in millions): $163.8
Original Price (in millions): $140 Date of Sale: November 2, 2006 Rank at Sale: 1
Jackson Pollock is known for his contribution towards the abstract expressionist movement. The painting was done on an 8′ × 4′ sheet of fiberboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance.
#4 Les Femmes d’Alger “Version O”
Artist: Pablo Picasso Year: 1955 Adjusted Price (in millions): $179.4
Original Price (in millions): $179.4 Date of Sale: May 11, 2015 Rank at Sale: 4
This is the final painting of the Les Femmes d’Alger series by Picasso in which he created several artworks as tribute to artists he admired. It is the most expensive painting to be sold at an auction, a record it created when it was sold for $179.4 million on being auctioned at Christie’s New York on 11 May 2015.
#3 No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)
Artist: Mark Rothko Year: 1951 Adjusted Price (in millions): $186
Original Price (in millions): $186 Date of Sale: August, 2014 Rank at Sale: 2
Mark Rothko was among the leading post-war painters in America who introduced a new Abstraction in art. Without subject matter and displaying the three titular colors, this painting adheres to Rothko’s principle of using art to explore deep concepts of mortality ad spirituality.
#2 The Card Players
Artist: Paul Cezanne Year: 1892/93 Adjusted Price (in millions): $272
Original Price (in millions): $259 Date of Sale: April, 2011 Rank at Sale: 1
Considered a masterpiece The Card Players captures the essence of Cezanne’s work. The painting depicts Provencal peasants engrossed in playing cards and smoking their pipes. It is noted for its lack of drama, narrative and conventional characterization. The models for the paintings were local workers some of whom worked for the Cezanne family estate.
#1 When Will You Marry?
Artist: Paul Gauguin Year: 1892 Adjusted Price (in millions): $300
Original Price (in millions): $300 Date of Sale: February, 2015 Rank at Sale: 1
In 1891, Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin traveled to Tahiti for the first time. He went on to paint several paintings of native women of the island dressed in traditional Tahitian attire and western dresses. This painting depicts a traditionally dressed woman and behind her is a woman wearing a high necked western dress. It can be inferred from the white tiare flower on her ear that she is seeking a husband.