There are famous art portraits, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” that will probably never be on sale but are worth millions. For example, the “Mona Lisa” is believed to be worth more than $800 million. In 1962 already, it was insured for $100 million, and this corresponds to about $850 million today.
But do you sometimes wonder for what amounts art portraits that are available for selling are sold for nowadays? Unfortunately, all sale transactions are not publically known, and in many instances, if it is known that an artwork has been sold, the selling price remains secret. But where transaction information is available, the selling prices are often mindboggling.
In this article, we’ll first list the prices of some of the most expensive famous portraits, and then we’ll look at 5 of these paintings with “interesting stories” associated with them.
List of Most Expensive and Famous Portrait Paintings
To give you an idea of the prices paid for famous portraits, we’ve compiled a list of eight famous artworks sold for more than $170 million (adjusted to reflect the estimated 2022-value).
The list indicates the name of the artwork, the painter, the date when it was sold, and the price. Because many paintings were sold a few years ago, we also provide an “adjusted” value, indicating the estimated 2022-value of the selling price.
Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
This famous portrait was sold for $450.3 million in 2017. (An estimated $497.8 million today).
In this painting, Christ is depicted in a blue-colored Renaissance dress. With his right hand, he is making the sign of the cross. In his left hand, he is holding a transparent crystal orb as a sign of his role as Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World).
Art historians believe Leonardo’s “Salvator Mundi” was probably commissioned by a specific patron such as Isabella d’Este, the Duchess of Milan. Because she had tried in 1504 to commission from Da Vinci a “youthful Christ” of around twelve years old, art scholars believe that it is an excellent possibility that she commissioned “Salvator Mundi” in 1514. At that stage, she was a guest of Leonardo’s patron, Giulianio de’ Medici.
Interestingly, approximately thirty copies and variations of this artwork done by pupils of Leonardo have been identified.
Pendant Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit – Rembrandt van Rijn
The pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit are a pair of full-length wedding portraits done by Rembrandt van Rijn. The famous art portraits depict them on their marriage day in 1634.
Although Maerten and Oopjen were painted individually, the two portraits have always been kept together. These two have permanently hung side by side in whatever collection or exhibition they were used.
The Louvre Museum and the Rijksmuseum bought the two portraits in 2015 from the Rothschild family’s previous owners. Each museum contributes half of the purchase price of $180 million. (The 2022-value estimate is $206). This price is up with a date, a record for a Rembrandt artwork.
The Card Players by Paul Cezanne
“The Card Players” consists of a series of five oil paintings. The different versions don’t only vary in size, but the number of players and the setting in which the game takes place also differ from painting to painting. However, he used only two card players in the last three paintings. It is documented that Cézanne created many drawings and studies in preparation for “The Card Players” series.
In 2011 one version of “The Card Players” was sold to the Royal Family of Qatar for an estimated $250 million. (An estimated $301 million today.)
Each painting depicts card-playing peasants smoking their pipes. The card players in the five paintings are all only male. Cézanne adapted a 17th-century Dutch and French motif depicting card games in this series. The 17th-century paintings had shown rowdy, drunken gamblers, but Cezanne changed that by defining stone-faced tradespeople in a simplified setting. He used local farm hands as models.
When will you Marry? by Paul Gauguin
“When will you Marry?” is a famous portrait painting by Paul Gauguin. In 2014 it was sold for $210 million. (The 2022-value estimate of that amount is $240).
This painting has an interesting story. Gauguin traveled to Tahiti hoping to find a “paradise” where he could create pure, “primitive’ art”. But unfortunately for him, he discovered that Tahiti had been colonized in the 18th century, and European diseases had killed at least two-thirds of the island’s indigenous people.
Nevertheless, he used native women as models and usually painted them in traditional or nude dresses— the main subjects in “When Will You Marry?” are traditionally dressed. The young woman has a white tiare flower behind her left ear, indicating she is looking for a husband.
Portrait of Dr. Gachet by Vincent van Gogh
This is also a painting with an interesting story. This famous portrait depicts Dr. Paul Gachet, a homeopathic doctor with whom van Gogh stayed after a spell in an asylum.
In 1911 the painting was acquired by The Frankfurt “Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie.” It was later confiscated and sold by Hermann Göring. It was sold at an auction in 1990 for $82.5 million ($171.1 million today), making it the world’s most expensive painting.
Although most famous portraits are nowadays housed in art museums, there are still art portraits in private collections which are auctioned from time to time. But they sell for millions of dollars; thus, most of us will have to be satisfied with good reproductions in our homes!