Top 10 Most Famous Paintings In The World
The most expensive paintings that are sold in million of dollars may not necessarily be the most famous painting. The most famous paintings are generally owned by museums, which very rarely sell them, and as such, they are quite literally priceless. Here is our list for top 10 most famous paintings in the world.
1) Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci
The Mona Lisa is a half-length portrait of a woman by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci, which has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world”
The painting, thought to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo, is in oil on a white Lombardy poplar panel, and is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. Leonardo may have continued working on it as late as 1517. It was acquired by King Francis I of France and is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797.
The painting’s fame increased greatly when it was stolen on 21 August 1911. The next day, Louis Béroud, a painter, walked into the Louvre and went to the Salon Carré where the Mona Lisa had been on display for five years. However, where the Mona Lisa should have stood, he found four iron pegs. Béroud contacted the section head of the guards, who thought the painting was being photographed for marketing purposes. A few hours later, Béroud checked back with the section head of the museum, and it was confirmed that the Mona Lisa was not with the photographers. The Louvre was closed for an entire week to aid in investigation of the theft.
The Mona Lisa on display in the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, 1913. Museum director Giovanni Poggi (right) inspects the painting.
French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had once called for the Louvre to be “burnt down”, came under suspicion; he was arrested and imprisoned. Apollinaire tried to implicate his friend Pablo Picasso, who was also brought in for questioning, but both were later exonerated.
2) The Last Supper – Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper is a 15th century mural painting in Milan created by Leonardo da Vinci and covers the back wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It represents the scene of The Last Supper when Jesus announces that one of his Twelve Apostles would betray him.
The Last Supper is the final meal that, in the Gospel accounts, Jesus shared with his Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion.
3) The Creation of Adam
The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, painted circa 1511–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis. It is the most well-known of the Sistine Chapel fresco panels, and its fame as a piece of art is rivaled only by the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
The image of the near-touching hands of God and Adam has become iconic of humanity and has been reproduced in countless imitations and parodies. Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam are the most replicated religious paintings of all time.
4) Starry Night – Vincent van Gogh
The Starry Night is an oil on canvas by the Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh. Painted in June, 1889, it depicts the view from the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, just before sunrise, with the addition of an idealized village. It has been in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City since 1941, acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. It is regarded as among Van Gogh’s finest works, and one of the most recognized monuments in the history of Western culture.
5) The Scream – Edvard Munch
The Scream is the popular name given to each of four versions of a composition, created as both paintings and pastels, by the Expressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 and 1910. Edvard Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The one shown above was painted in 1893 and is on display in The National Gallery of Norway. On 12 February 1994, the same day as the opening of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, two men broke into the National Gallery, Oslo, and stole its version of The Scream, leaving a note reading “Thanks for the poor security”. The painting had been moved down to a second-story gallery as part of the Olympic festivities. After the gallery refused to pay a ransom demand of US$1 million in March 1994, Norwegian police set up a sting operation with assistance from the British police and the Getty Museum and the painting was recovered undamaged on 7 May 1994.
6) Girl With A Pearl Earring – Johannes Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It depicts a European girl wearing an exotic dress, an oriental turban, and a large pearl earring. The work is oil on canvas and is 44.5 cm high and 39 cm wide. It is signed “IVMeer” but not dated. It is estimated to be painted around 1665. The painting has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902.
7) The Night Watch – Rembrandt van Rijn
The painting depicts the eponymous company moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd, the two gentlemen in the centre (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the small girl in the centre left background. Behind them, the company’s colours are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen.
It is prominently displayed in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as the best known painting in its collection. The Night Watch is a world renowned example of Baroque art. The painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age.
8) The Birth of Venus
The Birth of Venus is a painting by Sandro Botticelli generally thought to have been painted in the mid 1480s. It depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as an adult woman, arriving at the sea-shore. The painting is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
9) School of Athens
The School of Athens is one of the most famous frescoes by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1511 as a part of Raphael’s commission to decorate the rooms now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be decorated, and The School of Athens, representing Philosophy, was probably the second painting to be finished there. The picture has long been seen as “Raphael’s masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of the Renaissance.
10) Whistler’s Mother
This artwork is a portrait of James McNeill Whistler’s mother, Anna McNeill Whistler while they were in London in 1871. It was said that James’ model was not able to commit to the job and it was during this time that James decided to do his mother’s portrait. There was a lot of experimentation before the creation of this famous painting. James Whistler wanted his mother to pose for him while standing up but it proved to be too tiresome for her.
It is exhibited in and held by the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, having been bought by the French state in 1891. It is one of the most famous works by an American artist outside the United States. It has been variously described as an American icon and a Victorian Mona Lisa.