Price paid for most expensive paintings ever sold

The most expensive painting ever sold was Salvator Mundi, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci between 1490 and 1500. The painting depicts Jesus from the torso up, making the sign of the cross with his right hand, while holding a crystal ball in his left. While this is the highest sum ever paid for a painting, the authenticity of the piece had seemingly been unknown until the past decade. With the original thought to have been lost at some time in the mid-1600s, this specific painting was attributed to a number of Da Vinci's pupils as it was bought and sold between English nobility between the 17th and 20th centuries. Its is reported that the painting was sold privately for less than 200 U.S. dollars in 1958, when the authorship was unknown, and was later bought for less than 10,000 dollars at an estate sale in New Orleans in 2005. The collectors who bought the piece then commissioned its restoration, which uncovered evidence of early drafts where the artist seemingly change the thumb position on Jesus' right hand, suggesting heavily that this was the long-lost original painted by Da Vinci.

Confirmed authenticity?

Several art historians continue to dispute this piece's authenticity, citing the lack of distortion in through the glass ball or discrepancies between facial features and other Da Vinci works. However this is generally accepted to be a legitimate Da Vinci work by most art historians (making it one of just 24 known Da Vinci paintings), and any questions over its legitimacy have done little to devalue it. With this confirmation, the value soared; those who bought it for under 10,000 dollars in 2005 sold it to an art dealer, Yves Bouvier, for over 75 million dollars in 2013, who subsequently sold it to a Russian collector, Dmitry Rybolovlev, for 127.5 million dollars. In 2017, Rybolovlev sold the piece at auction for 450.3 million, to Saudi Prince Badr bin Abdullah, making it the most expensive painting ever. As of 2019, the exact location of this piece remains unknown, although many suspect that it hangs in the Serene, a private superyacht owned by the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (the yacht in question was bought for approximately 550 million dollars in 2015; roughly 100 million dollars more than the painting). In July 2020, it was announced that a musical based on the history of the Salvator Mundi was being adapted for Broadway, to be released in 2022.

The Bouvier Affair

The sale between the Swiss dealer, Yves Bouvier, and Russian collector, Dmitry Rbolovlev, in 2013, was just one part of a much larger court case between the two (and several other parties) that has become known as "The Bouvier Affair". Between 2003 and 2015, Bouvier acted as an intermediary for Rybolovlev, helping the Russian amass one of the most valuable personal art collections in modern times; this collection included several of the most expensive paintings ever sold, such as Rothko's No.6, Klimt's Wasserschlangen II and Modigliani's Reclining Nude with Blue Cushion, as well as other works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin. When Rybolovlev discovered that Bouvier made over fifty million dollars in the purchase of Salvator Mundi, instead of the traditional two percent commission, he began to investigate Bouvier's past dealings on his behalf. In February 2015, Rybolovlev pressed charges against Bouvier, claiming that he was involved in the purchase of 38 pieces of art for approximately two billion dollars, but had defrauded Rybolovlev of over one billion dollars through these deals. As of September 2020, the case is still ongoing, with Bouvier and his associates facing charges in France, Monaco and Switzerland, while the case has also appeared in courts in Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.S.

Known price paid for the most expensive paintings ever sold at auction or privately

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Release date




Survey time period

2006 to 2019

Supplementary notes

As of September 29, 2020.

*Leonardo Da Vinci's Salvator Mundi was sold privately in 2013 for 127.5 million dollars, and again at auction in 2017 for 450.3 million dollars.

The years of sale are as follows:
Leonardo da Vinci: Salvator Mundi - 2017
Willem de Kooning: Interchange - 2015
Paul Cézanne: The Card Players - 2011
Paul Gauguin: Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) - 2014
Jackson Pollock: Number 17A - 2015
Mark Rothko: No. 6 (Violet, Green and Red) - 2014
Gustav Klimt: Wasserschlangen II - 2013
Rembrandt: Pendant portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit - 2015
Picasso: Les Femmes d'Alger ("Version O") - 2015
Amedeo Modigliani: Nu Couché - 2015
Roy Lichtenstein: Masterpiece - 2017
Amedeo Modigliani: Nu Couché (sur le côté gauche) - 2018
Picasso: Le Rêve - 2013
Gustav Klimt: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II - 2016
Francis Bacon: Three Studies of Lucian Freud - 2013
Qi Baishi: Twelve Landscape Screens - 2017
Jackson Pollock: No. 5, 1948 - 2006
Willem de Kooning: Woman III - 2006
Gustav Klimt: Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - 2006
Leonardo da Vinci: Salvator Mundi* - 2013
Edvard Munch: The Scream - 2012
Amedeo Modigliani: Reclining Nude With Blue Cushion - 2012
Picasso: Young Girl with a Flower Basket - 2018
Claude Monet: Meules - 2019
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Untitled - 2017

Most of this data came from the linked source at, however additional data has been compiled and cross-referenced using other sources, namely Business Insider, the New Yorker, and other infographics by Statista.

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