The 5 most expensive works of art ever
Let’s discover together the 5 most expensive Old Master artists ever sold at auction!
Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons… These, and many others of course, are the names that have been dominating auctions and the art market lately. And yet it wasn’t always like this! Before the last two decades, the category of Old Masters – which includes artists active between the 14th and 18th centuries – was the most discussed and coveted by collectors and, even though its importance seems to have diminished over time, there are still numerous auction records set by these often extremely rare works, sometimes sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
But what are the 5 most expensive antique works ever sold at auction? Let’s find out together!
5) Peter Paul Rubens, Lot and his daughters (ca. 1613-14)
In 2016, the painting depicting the biblical episode of Lot and his daughters by Peter Paul Rubens was sold at Christie’s in London for a price of £44.9 million ($58.2 million). The work, which came from a private collection, had previously been owned by such high-ranking figures as German Emperor Joseph I or the Duke of Marlborough. Now after purchase by a charitable foundation, it is on display under a long-term loan at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
4) Peter Paul Rubens, The Massacre of the Innocents (1611-12)
Again Rubens and again a scene from the Holy Scriptures for this painting depicting The Massacre of the Innocents sold at Sotheby’s London in 2002 for the exorbitant sum of £49.5 million ($76.5 million). Previously attributed to another Flemish painter, the work far exceeded its initial estimate going to Canadian businessman and collector Kenneth Thomson who decided to donate it to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
3) Sandro Botticelli, Portrait of a young man with medallion (1480)
On January 28, 2021, this painting definitely brought New York to life! Sandro Botticelli‘s Portrait of a Young Man with Medallion, a much-anticipated sale for many avid collectors and art dealers, was sold at Sotheby’s New York for a record $92.2 million. The work, one of the artist’s last in private hands, went to a Russian buyer who, with this incredible sum, broke the master’s previous record of $10.4 million, achieved with the sale of the Rockefeller Madonna at Christie’s in 2013.
2) Rembrandt van Rijn, Portraits of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit (1634)
In February 2016, the Dutch and French governments, on behalf of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Louvre in Paris, made a historic joint private acquisition of two rare Rembrandt portraits depicting the Dutch couple consisting of Maerten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit. Through the mediation of Christie’s, the works were acquired through a private agreement for a price of €80 million each. The paintings, the only full-length works in Rembrandt’s oeuvre, previously belonged to the Rothschild collection and now the two museums, although the works are owned separately, have promised that they will always be displayed together.
1) Attribution to Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500)
The most expensive – and mysterious – panel in the world certainly needs no introduction! Beaten in 2017 during an evening auction of contemporary art by Christie’s New York the Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo sweeps away every previous record with its value of a good $450.3 million! Purchased by the Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salam it seems for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the work after the sale has disappeared into thin air fueling many doubts about its authenticity! And just recently the film by French journalist Antoine Vitkine has put the load from ninety that starts from a simple question: why the work has never appeared in the exhibition dedicated by the Louvre to Leonardo da Vinci? In the documentary, Vitkine collects the testimony of an anonymous high official of the Macron government who goes so far as to declare: “The painting ended up under a series of machines and was X-rayed in every part. […] at the end of the process the verdict was revealed: the scientific evidence was that Leonardo da Vinci only made a contribution to the painting, nothing more”. And the mystery continues…