Gauguin - Nafea faa ipoipo?

Paul Gauguin
Nafea faa ipoipo? (When will you marry?)

Paul Cézanne - The Card Players

Paul Cézanne
The Card Players, 1892/93

Picasso - Les Femmes d’Alger

Pablo Picasso
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)

Amedeo Modigliani - Nu couché (Reclining Nude)

Amedeo Modigliani
Nu couché (Reclining Nude)

Pablo Picasso - La Rêve (The Dream)

Pablo Picasso
La Rêve (The Dream), 1932

Francis Bacon - Three Studies of Lucian Freud

Francis Bacon
Three Studies of Lucian Freud, 1969

Pollock - Number 5, 1948   de Kooning - Woman III

Left - Jackson Pollock: Number 5, 1948
Right - Willem de Kooning: Woman III

Gustav Klimt: Adele Bloch-bauer I

Gustav Klimt
Adele Bloch-bauer I

Edvard Munch - The Scream

Edvard Munch
The Scream

Jasper Johns - Flag

Jasper Johns

Picasso - Nude, Green Leaves and Bust   Picasso - Garçon a la pipe

Left - Pablo Picasso: Nude, Green Leaves and Bust
Right - Pablo Picasso: Garçon a la pipe

Andy Warhol: Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster]

Andy Warhol
Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster]

Picasso - Dora Maar au chat   Gustav Klimt - Adele Bloch-bauer II

Left - Pablo Picasso: Dora Maar au chat
Right - Gustav Klimt: Adele Bloch-bauer II

Rothko - Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961

Mark Rothko
Orange, Red, Yellow, 1961

Bacon Tryptich

Francis Bacon
"Tryptich, 1976"

Vincent van Gogh: Portrait of doctor Gachet

Vincent van Gogh
Portrait of doctor Gachet

Claude Monet - Le bassin aux nymphéas

Claude Monet
Le bassin aux nymphéas

Vincent van Gogh: Self portrait with bandaged ear

Vincent van Gogh
Self portrait with bandaged ear

Most Expensive Paintings ever sold

A detailed and and frequently updated list of the most expensive paintings ever

by G. Fernández -
There are a lot of websites displaying "the 10 most expensive paintings ever sold" or similar lists. But unfortunately, most of these lists are incorrect, often being obsoletes, often ignoring the private sales and showing only those pictures sold at auction. This list showcases paintings sold at either public auctions or private sales, and it is frequently updated. In addition to 'confirmed' sales, at the end of the list you can find a few works whose price has not being confirmed despite the rumours about exorbitant sums

"Nafea faa ipoipo? (When will you marry?)", 1892
$300 million
Inflation adjusted price: $300 million (#1)
Private sale, early 2015. Seller: Rudolf Staechelin Family Trust. Buyer: Qatar Museums?.

The painting -one of Gauguin's most famous and reproduced images- depicts a couple of Tahitian native women, one of them dressed in a traditional Tahitian dress, while the other one, showing a serious expression on her face, is wearing a mission dress.

"The Card Players", 1892/93
$250 million
Inflation adjusted price: $273 million (#2)
Private sale, 2011. Seller: George Embiricos. Buyer: Royal Family of Qatar.

This is the last version of this famous composition by Paul Cézanne still in private hands. The fabulous psychological intensity in the faces of the players make this painting a masterpiece of post-impressionist art.

"Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)", 1955
$179.4 million
Inflation adjusted price: $179.4 million (#3)
Christie's New York, May 2015. Seller: Private collection, Saudi Arabia. Buyer: Anonymous

"Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”)" is one of Picasso's most famous late works, but not one of his most important works. The absurd sum of $179,4 million paid for the work represent the highest price ever paid for a painting at auction. The painting had been sold for $31.9 million in 1997, in an auction where Picasso's "La Rêve (The Dream)" (see following work) achieved $48 million.

"Nu couché (Reclining Nude)", 1917-18
$170.4 million
Inflation adjusted price: $170.4 million (#4)
Christie's New York, November 2015. Seller: Private collection. Buyer: Liu Yiqian

The painting is one of a series of great female nudes made for Léopold Zborowski that famously caused a scandal nearly a century ago when they were exhibited at Modigliani’s first and only one-man show at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris.

"La Rêve (The Dream)", 1932
$155 million
Inflation adjusted price: $157.5 million (#7)
Private sale, 2013. Seller: Steve Wynn. Buyer: Steven A. Cohen

"La Rêve (The Dream)" is one of Picasso's most sensual and famous paintings, depicting her lover Marie-Therese Walter sitting on a red armchair with her eyes closed. In 2006, Steve Wynn agreed to sell the painting to Steven Cohen for $139 million, but the sale was cancelled when Mr. Wynn accidentally damaged the work.

"Three Studies of Lucian Freud", 1969
$142.4 million
Inflation adjusted price: $145 million (#10)
Christie's New York, 2013. Seller: Francesco De Simone Niquesa(?). Buyer: Unknown

Untile the sale of Picasso's "Femmes" (see above), this Bacon was not only the most expensive painting ever auctioned, but also a record for a contemporary work of art. Christie's explained that when this work was painted, "the relationship between Freud and Bacon was at its apex".

"Number 5, 1948", 1948
$140 million
Inflation adjusted price: $165 million (#5)
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Unknown (rumoured to be Mexican businessman David Martinez)

This stunning "drip" by Jackson Pollock was at the time the most expensive contemporary painting ever sold, though the exact price was never confirmed (but the price displayed here is generally accepted to be true). The exorbitant sum demonstrated not only the strenght of the Art market, but also an increasing interest for the contemporary works of Art.

"Woman III", 1952-53
$137.5 million
Inflation adjusted price: $162 million (#6)
Private sale, 2006. Seller: David Geffen. Buyer: Steven Cohen

This painting is the only "Woman" by Willem de Kooning still in private hands. One of this women -described by T. Hess as "black goddesses"- has been chosen by as one of the 50 masterworks of the history of painting.

"Adele Bloch-bauer I", 1907
$135 million
Inflation adjusted price: $158 million (#8)
Private sale, 2006. Buyer: Ronald Lauder.

The acquisition of this iconic work by cosmetic magnate Ronald Lauder caused a shock in the Art world, not only for the spectacular sum paid for it, but also for the way it was sold, far away from the noisy auction houses. The painting was part of a group of five canvases which had been recently returned to the heirs of Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. The Nazis confiscated his paintings during the World War II, and after the war, the canvases were placed at the National Gallery of Austria in 1948.

"The Scream", 1895
$119.9 million
Sotheby's New York , May 2012. Buyer: anonymous

This iconic work was the most expensive painting ever sold at auction until it was surpassed by Bacon's "Three Studies of Lucian Freud". The work is the most colorful of the four versions of Edvard Munch’s masterpiece 'The Scream', and the only one still in private hands


Jasper Johns
"Flag", 1958 - $110 million
"Flags" are Jasper Johns most famous works. The artist painted his first American flag in 1954–55, a work now at the MoMA. This version was bought by Steven Cohen in 2010.

Pablo Picasso
"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust", 1932 - $106.5 million
Christie's New York , May 2010. Buyer: anonymous - This sensual and colorful masterpiece, formerly in the collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, had been never exhibited in public since 1961

Andy Warhol: "Silver Car Crash [Double Disaster]", 1932 - $104.1 million - Sotheby's New York , November 2013. Buyer: anonymous - The most expensive work by the most famous legend of Pop Art, Andy Warhol's monumental "Silver Car Crash" was the star of the Contemporary Art evening sale at Sotheby's.

Pablo Picasso: "Garçon a la pipe", 1904 - $104.1 million - Sotheby's New York , May 2004. Buyer: anonymous - The sale of this young smoker was a milestone in the Art auctions world. It broke the record that Vincent van Gogh held since 1990, and it was the first time that the $100 million barrier was broken. Although the name of the buyer was not revealed, some sources says that he could be Guido Barilla, the Italian pasta magnate.

Andy Warhol: "Eight Elvises", 1963 - $100 million - Private sale, 2008 - This unique work by Warhol, measuring over 12 feet long, had been at the collection of Roman collector Annibale Berlingieri for over 40 years. It surpassed the previous world record for a work by Warhol, the $71.7 million paid at Christie's New York in 2007 for "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I)"

Pablo Picasso: "Dora Maar au chat", 1941 - $95.2 million (2006) - Dora Maar (1907-1997) met Picasso in 1930, and their relationship lasted until 1946. A native from Paris, raised in Argentina and therefore fluent in Spanish, Maar was one of Picasso's favourite models. This painting, measuring 130- 97 cm, was recently rediscovered and authenticated by Picasso's daughter, Maya Widmaier Picasso. You can read theArtWolf's article informing about this sale in this link.

Titian: "Diana and Actaeon", 1556-1559 - $91 million (2009) - This work have all the splendour and glory of the best of Titian's 'painted poetries'. It was previously at the Duke of Sutherland collection, who offered it to the U.K. It has a "sister picture", "Diana and Callisto", bought for £45 million ($72 million) in 2012.

Gustav Klimt: "Adele Bloch-bauer II ", 1912 - $87.9 million (2006) - Sold only a few months later than Klimt's first version of Adele, this extremely appealing canvas was the star lot in a highly succesful auction in which four works by Klimt -including this- totalled a stunning $192 million

Mark Rothko: "Orange, Red, Yellow", 1961 - $86.9 million (2012) - This 1961 painting was the centerpiece of the Pincus Collection, sold at Christie's on May 8 2012.

Francis Bacon: "Tryptich, 1976", 1976 - $86.3 million (2008) - Francis Bacon is one of the most sought-after names in the Art market, and this work easily surpassed its impressive $70 million pre-sale estimate at Sotheby's.

Vincent van Gogh: "Portrait of Doctor Gachet", 1890 - $82.5 million (1990) - Inflation adjusted price: $151 million (#9) - The story about this famous and brilliant work resumes by itself the "Japanese buyer boom" of the late 80s and early 90s: great painting, sold for an astronomic amount of money to a Japanese buyer (Ryoei Saito), who was later ruined, and the whereabouts of the painting are now unknown. Some sources places it in Europe , waiting for its return to the Art market

Claude Monet: "Le bassin aux nymphéas", 1919 - $80.6 million (2008) - This green pictorial symphony almost duplicated it pre-sale highest estimate and smashed the previous auction record for a Monet when it was auctioned at Christie's London, June 2008

Jasper Johns: "False Start", 1959 - $80 million (2006) - This iconic work by Johns, sold by David Geffen (see Pollock's 'Number 5' and Kooning's 'Woman'), is the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist

Andy Warhol: "Turquoise Marilyn", 1964 - $80 million (2007) - Bought by Mr. Steve Cohen, the price was not confirmed but is generally accepted to be true


Pierre Auguste Renoir: "Le moulin de la Galette", 1876 - $78.1 million (1990) - Another victim of the Japanese "buy it and forget it" boom was this masterpiece by Renoir, the little sister of the version currently exhibited at the Orsay. The painting was bought by Ryoei Saito (see Van Gogh's 'Portrait of Dr. Gachet) for $78.1 million at Sotheby's, 1990, and sold in 1997 to a "European private collector" for $50 million

Peter Paul Rubens: "Massacre of the innocents", 1610/11- $76.7 million (£49.5 million) - Bought by Kenneth Thompson at Sotheby's London, July 2002. The flamboyant and dramatic work by Rubens -though recently some voices discussing its authenticity have been heard- could also fight for the title of "most unexpected success": Christie's had estimated its price at a mere £5 million

Mark Rothko: "No 1 (Royal Red and Blue)", 1954 - $75.1 million (2012) - The majestic canvas was one of eight works hand-selected by Rothko for his landmark solo show of the same year at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Mark Rothko: "White center (yellow, pink and lavender on rose)", 1950 - $72.8 million (2007) - Once in the collection of David Rockefeller, the work was sold at Sotheby's New York for more than $72 million, making it one of the most expensive contemporary artworks ever sold at auction

Titian: "Diana and Callisto", 1556-59 - $72 million (2012) - The Duke of Sutherland offered the painting to the United Kingdom for £45 million in 2009. Later, the Duke and his family agreed to a further reduction of the asking price to £45 million.

Andy Warhol: "Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car)", 1963 - $71.7 million (2007) - Sold two days after the work above, in a record $384 million sale of contemporary Art

Vincent van Gogh: "Portrait of the artiste sans barbe", 1889- $71.5 million (1998) - Van Gogh once again. The sale of this great picture -not a masterpiece, however- represented an extraordinary success -the auction house had estimated it in less than a half of its final price- and began the recuperation of the Art market after the crisis of the middle 90s.

Titian: "Portrait of Alfonso d'Avalos", 1533 - $70 million (2004) - A sum never confirmed, but also never denied, by its buyer, the Getty Museum. The glorious painting -it worths every dollar paid for it- was exhibited for many years in the Louvre Museum, lent by the owners, and in fact the Parisian Museum had the opportunity of acquire it for a sum much lower than the $70 million paid by the Californian museum.


Mark Rothko
"No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red)", 1951
$186 million
Private sale, 2014. Buyer: Dmitry Rybolovlev
According to, Russian billonaire Dmitry Rybolovlev bought this Rothko from dealer Yves Bouvier.

Leonardo da Vinci(attributed to)
"Madonna dei fusi", 1501
$150 million
Private sale, late 90s. Buyer: private collector, New Work
Let's put a lot of question marks on this sum. In fact, it is almost sure that this almost offensive number is an exaggerated hype. Nevertheless, the spectacular price suggested -it would be the most expensive old master painting ever sold- deserves to be commented here. You can read more about this painting in this article

Leonardo da Vinci(attributed to)
"Salvator Mundi", c.1500
$127,5 million
Private sale, 2014. Buyer: Dmitry Rybolovlev
It is known that Russian billonaire Dmitry Rybolovlev (see the Rothko above) bought this painting, but the price paid for it is still unclear.

Barnett Newman
"Anna’s Light ", 1968
$105,7 million
Private sale, 2013. Seller: DIC Corp. Buyer: unknown
DIC Corporation announced in a public release that the capital gain of the transaction was 10.3 billion Japanese yen. No other reliable sources have been found.

Vincent van Gogh
"Self-portrait with bandaged ear", 1889
$90 million
Private sale, late 90s. Buyer: Niarchos family
This highly important work was previously in the collection of Leigh B. Block in Chicago , and then it was quietly purchased by the Niarchos family. The sum -never confirmed- is not absurd given the high quality of the painting.


There are still several Art masterpieces in private hands, waiting to shine at the Art market. You can find them at our article about The most important paintings in private hands

G. Fernández

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