Billions of dollars of art (famous paintings in the world) move via international auction houses every year, whereas museum representatives each keep tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of pieces of amazing artwork in their galleries. But precious few ever attain the fame needed to truly be known as household names.
Since “famous” is a subjective word, it’s turned to Google to see the paintings over the past five years have dominated search results globally.
From classics such as “Mona Lisa,” “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and “Salavator Mundi,” to more recent works such as “Nighthawks” and even the “Dogs Playing Poker” series, we contrasted dozens of famous masterpieces.
Here are the 10 most famous paintings in the world, depending on those outcomes:
♦ The Last Supper
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Estimated date: 1495 to 1498
The place to see it: Santa Maria delle Grazie (Milan, Italy)
The only artist to feature twice on this most famous paintings list is Leonardo, the original ‘Renaissance Man.’ “The Last Supper” painted in a period when spiritual imagery was still a prevalent artistic trend, portrays the last time Jesus broke bread before his crucifixion with his followers.
Truly, the painting is a massive fresco — 4.6 meters (15 feet) high and 8.8 meters (28.9 feet) wide, making it an unforgettable sight.
In this, most famous paintings of Jesus, you are going to come across two wartime dangers have endured the fresco — the troops of Napoleon used the wall of the refectory on which the fresco was drawn as target practice. It was also revealed to the air for many years when bombs damaged the roof of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan during World War II.
♦ Mona Lisa
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Projected Year: 1503 to 1519
The place to see it: Louvre Museum (Paris)
It should come as no wonder that that fascinating woman with that mysterious smile is the most famous painting in the world. But for this amazing artwork, that is one of the few absolutes.
Lisa Gherardini, the wife of the Florence merchant Francesco Del Giocondo, is believed to be the sitter in the painting, but experts are not certain. As per the Louvre, where it was first displayed in 1804, it represented an innovation in art — the painting is the earliest known Italian painting to focus so precisely on the sitter in a half-long portrait.
Historians state the “Mona Lisa” was little known outside of art circles before the 20th century. But in 1911, the portrait was pilfered by a former Louvre employee and concealed for two years. The theft has since contributed to cement the place of painting in popular culture and introduced millions to Renaissance art.
♦ The Scream
Artist: Edvard Munch
The place to see it: National Museum (Oslo, Norway – opening in 2020) and Munch Museum (Oslo – through May 2020)
First things first—”The Scream “is not just a single art work. There are two paintings, two pastels and an undisclosed number of prints, as per a blog from the British Museum. The paintings are housed in the National Museum and the Munch Museum, and one of the pastels was priced at auction for almost $120 million in 2012.
Just like the case of “Mona Lisa,” daring thefts (1994 and 2004) of the two painting versions of “The Scream” assisted to uplift the public’s consciousness of the artworks.
The androgynous character in the foreground of this one of the most famous paintings of all time in the Art Nouveau style does not produce the scream, but rather tries to block a penetrating scream from nature. It was influenced by a real experience Munch had while taking a sunset stroll in Oslo, while his senses were stimulated by a dramatic red hue.
♦ The Starry Night
Artist: Vincent van Gogh
The place to see it: Museum of Modern Art (New York City)
The relatively abstract painting is the iconic instance of the creative and bold use of dense brushstrokes by van Gogh. The vivid blues and yellows of the painting and the dreamy, swirling environment have for decades fascinated art lovers.
When he painted “The Starry Night.” Van Gogh was staying in an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France, being handled for mental disorder. He was influenced by the view from his room’s window.
Artist: Pablo Picasso
The place to see it: Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid)
This is the latest painting on this list and portrays the German aerial bombing during the Spanish Civil War of the town of Guernica in the Basque region.
This, one of the best paintings in the world, painting has the distinct look of Picasso, and its unflinching analysis of the hardships of war made it a crucial part of the culture and history of the 20th century.
“During World War II,” Guernica “was transferred for safety purposes to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York. Picasso called for the stay to be prolonged until the return of democracy to Spain. It eventually returned to Madrid in 1981, six years after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco, a long-time Spanish dictator.
♦ The Kiss
Artist: Gustav Klimt
Estimated year: 1907 to 1908
The place to see it: Upper Belvedere museum (Vienna, Austria)
Here, in this one of the most popular paintings in the world, we encounter a study in hate to a study in love with the lovely “The Kiss.” of Gustav Klimt.
Byzantine artistic influences can be identified from the “Golden Period,” of Klimt in the highly decorated robes worn by the enthusiastic, life-sized couple.
The Upper Belvedere states that with “The Kiss,” Klimt makes a “general allegorical statement about love being at the heart of human existence.” Given its charming attraction, people appear to agree with it.
♦ The Birth of Venus
Artist: Sandro Botticelli
Estimated year: 1485
The place to see it: Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi (Florence, Italy)
The oldest and famous paintings in the world and competing with “The Kiss” for most sumptuous, “The Birth of Venus” was perhaps commissioned by a member of the well-off and art-loving Medici family, which administrated Florence and nearby areas for centuries.
Botticelli constructs an iconic figure of the Goddess of Love emerging from a massive scallop shell, marrying a revived interest in classical Greek culture with the Early Renaissance style.
♦ Girl with a Pearl Earring
Artist: Johannes Vermeer
Estimated year: 1665
The place to see it: Mauritshuis (The Hague, Netherlands)
This fascinating favorite and one of the best paintings of all time frequently gets paralleled with the “Mona Lisa.” In addition to the stylistic modifications, precisely “Girl with a Pearl Earring” isn’t even a representation, but a “tronie” — a Dutch word for a painting of an imaginary character with overstated characteristics.
In its elegance, the oil on canvas masterpiece is brilliant. With only a dark background behind her, the girl — wearing a blue and gold turban and an oversized pearl earring — is the entire subject.
♦ Creation of Adam
Year: 1508 to 1512
The place to see it: Sistine Chapel (Vatican City)
A part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is the greatest works of art by the legendary artist Michelangelo — you have to look up to see it. With outstretched arms, the scene portrays God and Adam, their fingers almost touching. It is one of history’s most replicated frames.
The muscular form of Adam hints at the other talent of Michelangelo — his “David” is perhaps the most famous paintings in the world. At the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, you will see the majestic marble statue.
♦ Las Meninas
Artist: Diego Velázquez
The place to see it: Museo del Prado (Madrid)
In this most famous paintings list, Madrid is the only region where you can notice two of the 10 most famous paintings in the world.
Housed in the iconic (and vast) Prado, “Las Meninas” is not only one of the most amazing paintings of Diego Velázquez, it is also one of his greatest. For decades, the work’s ambiguity has intrigued art critics and the public.
As a figure, the painting does double duty. It acts as a group portrait of Spanish royalty, but it is also a (on the left) self-portrait of Velázquez himself at work.