I was chatting with a good friend of mine recently who specializes in the arts, she works for the Sadigh Gallery, which is dedicated to ancient coins and artifacts. The conversation turned to value, and how much art or historical goods should be valued, or indeed whether it has a value at all. This lead to plenty of Googling of course, especially in terms of the most expensive things ever sold. Paintings are usually the items which fetch the big bucks, and these eye-watering sums are the most amount of money ever payed for paintings at auction, check them out.
Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, circa 1490–1500
This painting of Jesus Christ by Leonardo Da Vinci was sold for $450.3 million back in 2017, utterly destroying records which had been previously set. The painting had not been seen since 1958 after it was sold for $60, that was until 2005 when the painting was sold for $127.5 million, at this point it was still not known that it was a Da Vinci. Following research the truth was uncovered and naturally its value went through the roof.
Pablo Picasso, Les Femmes d’Alger (“Version O”), 1955
Sold in 2015 at Christie’s this Picasso piece went for $179.4 million, a record at the time. Prior to selling in 2015 the piece was sold to a Saudi Arabian collector in 1997 for $31.9 million, who clearly went on to make quite the profit some 18 years later. This is seen as one of Picasso’s boldest pieces and formed part of a collection which he painted between 1953 and 1955.
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917–18
Just 6 months after Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger sold for $179.4 million, it looked as if the record would be beaten again when bidding for Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché exceeded the $170 million mark. The piece eventually sold for a cool $170.4 million, securing its position in second place as the most expensive paintings ever sold. This depiction of a nude lady relaxing on her bed is one of the artist’s most notable and clearly most sought after too.
Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche), 1917–18
Another painting of Modigliani comes in at number 4 having sold at Sotheby’s for $157.2 million in 2018. The painting depicts a nude woman sitting on a chair with her back to the artist, and whilst many consider this to be trite and pastiche, there are clearly a number of collectors who want to own the painting. Interestingly the two pieces from the artist were sold to different collectors, although it is generally believed that there were bids for this piece from the Chinese collector who owns the first.
As to whether we will see this incredible fee which was paid for Salvatore Mundi matched in the future remains to be seen but it is clear that the sale of that piece has raised the bar completely in terms of what paintings are worth.