11 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold & What They're Worth

Hint: These amazing works of art all fetched hundreds of millions of dollars.

Published April 17, 2024
Tourists taking photos in Museum

Imagine finding a super-valuable painting in your attic or at a flea market. While the most expensive paintings ever sold tend to be famous pieces everyone watches, some of them were rediscovered after years of being lost. Each painting has a fascinating story and offers lots of clues about what makes art valuable.

Most Expensive Paintings List for Quick Reference

These super-valuable paintings are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and there are lots of reasons they're worth so much. It's nice to have a quick reference list of the most valuable art ever sold as you read the stories of these treasures.

Painting Artist Sales Price
Salvator Mundi Leonardo da Vinci $450.3 million
The Card Players Paul Cézanne $400 million
Interchange Willem de Kooning $300 million
Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) Paul Gauguin $210 million
Number 17A Jackson Pollock $200 million
The Standard Bearer Rembrandt $198 million
Shot Sage Blue Marilyn Andy Warhol $195 million
No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) Mark Rothko $186 million
Wasserschlangen II Gustav Klimt $183.8 million
Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit Rembrandt $180 million
Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') Pablo Picasso $179 million
Need to Know

From da Vinci to de Kooning, names matter when it comes to the most expensive art. Some of these artists were famous during their lifetimes (we're looking at you, Warhol), and others were famous only after death. Either way, that fame matters now when it comes to value.

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci or Boltraffio (attrib) Salvator Mundi circa 1500

Considered the most important rediscovered piece of art since the turn of the millennium, Salvator Mundi was lost from 1763 to 1900. Even when it was rediscovered, no one was sure who the artist was. In 2007, art historians realized during the conservation process that it was the work of Leonardo da Vinci. The painting portrays Jesus Christ as Salvator Mundi (the savior of the world). It’s a gorgeous piece that set records as the most expensive painting in the world when it went up for auction in 2017 at Christie's, selling for $450,312,500.

The Card Players by Paul Cézanne

Les Joueurs de cartes, par Paul Cézanne, collection Al-Thani

Once stolen along with seven other paintings by Cézanne and recovered for a ransom, The Card Players set the record for the most expensive painting ever sold in 2011 when the royal family of Qatar bought the piece for £250 million or about $400 million. It shows two men playing cards in a bar and was painted between 1894 and 1895.

Interchange by Willem de Kooning

Interchange by Willem de Kooning is another of the most expensive paintings the world has ever seen. Created in 1955 (and sold for $4,000 that year), Interchange is named for an area of New York City, where the artist lived. The pink center of the painting is said to represent a woman lying amid the cityscape. The colorful abstract expressionist piece set records in 2015, selling for $300 million.

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

Paul Gauguin, Nafea Faa Ipoipo? 1892, oil on canvas, 101 x 77 cm

Gauguin’s colorful portrait of two Tahitian women fetched $210 million in 2015. One of the women in the painting wears a white flower, which symbolizes readiness for marriage. The painting was not especially popular when Gauguin created it in 1892, but time has added to its value.

Number 17A by Jackson Pollock

Painted just after Jackson Pollock began his famous drip painting style, Number 17A is colorful and abstract with sweeps of orange, yellow, black, blue, and red. It's also incredibly valuable. In 2015, it sold for about $200 million.

The Standard Bearer by Rembrandt

A 1636 self-portrait by Rembrandt, The Standard Bearer shows the famous artist in the costume of a standard bearer (carrier of a flag or banner). Rembrandt painted this piece when he was about 30 as a sort of "statement of intent." He was hoping to paint more portraits and more historical pieces, and the self-portrait was proof to potential clients that he could. In 2021, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam bought this painting for €175 million or $198 million.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn by Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century, and his portrait of the most famous actress of that century is among the most valuable works of art ever sold. Warhol created Shot Sage Blue Marilyn in 1964, not long after Marilyn Monroe died. The colorful acrylic and silkscreen on linen piece is iconic and beautiful and sold for $195 million in 2022.

No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) by Mark Rothko

No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) is a 1951 painting by Mark Rothko. It’s a bold piece with bands of red, green, and violet. Color Field artwork like this was a signature of Rothko’s approach, and the most colorful pieces he created tend to be worth a lot. No. 6 (Violet, Green, and Red) sold for €140,000,000 or about $186 million in 2014.

Wasserschlangen II by Gustav Klimt

limt - Wasserschlangen II (Freundinnen) - 1904

Stolen by the Nazis during World War II, Wasserschlangen II (or Water Serpents II) has a fascinating history. Finished about 1906, it’s part of a group of paintings with water nymphs and depicts four of these mythical figures. The original owner of the painting was Jewish and fled Vienna in 1938. At that time, the Nazis took the painting, and it was lost until 2012 when the owner (who had inherited it) decided to sell it. The seller then had to reach an agreement with the heirs of the original owner. Eventually, the painting sold for $183.8 million.

Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit by Rembrandt

Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit

A set of two portraits by Rembrandt also make the list of the most expensive paintings ever sold. These two portraits are jointly owned by the Louvre and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and show a man and woman at the time of their wedding in 1634. Together, the paintings sold for €160 million or $180 million, making them some of the most valuable artwork on the planet.

Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') by Pablo Picasso

Painted by Picasso in 1955, Les femmes d'Alger (Version 'O') is an iconic image in the artist's famous cubist style. It was inspired by an earlier painting by Eugène Delacroix but is uniquely the work of Picasso. The colorful and geometric painting shows women in their apartment. It sold for $179.4 million in 2015.

Related: 6 Most Valuable Thomas Kinkade Paintings Worth Their Luminous Legacy

Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold by the Greatest Artists Who Ever Lived

Although you might not have one of these works by the great masters hanging on your walls, you can still appreciate what makes these paintings worth so much. The most expensive paintings ever sold were painted by some of the greatest artists that ever lived, and they are striking examples of their style and era.

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11 Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold & What They're Worth