Every year, worldwide auction houses sell billions of dollars’ worth of famous paintings and artworks. Top museums each have thousands of famous paintings and works of art in their collections. However, only a small percentage of people acquire the level of fame required to be termed household names.
Buzz Spector has collated a list of what we consider to be the most famous paintings across the world.
1485: The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli
The Birth of Venus is the oldest picture in our list and a contender for most sensual alongside The Kiss. This artwork was most likely commissioned by a member of the wealthy and art-loving Medici family.
Botticelli produces an outstanding figure with the Goddess of Love coming from a giant scallop shell.
The Birth of Venus differs significantly from most of his contemporaries’ works in two ways. Botticelli began by painting on canvas rather than the more common wood. Second, nudity was uncommon at the time, so Venus’ long, flowing hair and a hand (just) covering her most private bodily parts, was brave.
Visit The Birth of Venus at the Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy.
1498: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
The Last Supper was painted during a time when religious imagery was still a popular artistic theme.
Napoleon’s forces used the wall of the refectory on which the fresco was created as target practice. The fresco has withstood two wartime attacks. When the roof of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan was devastated by bombs during World War II, it was exposed to the air for several years.
The painting is 4.6 meters tall and 8.8 meters wide.
The Last Supper can be viewed at Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.
1503: Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
It should come as no surprise that this is the most famous artwork in the world. But it’s one of the few things we know for sure about this work of art.
Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florence merchant Francesco del Giocondo, is assumed to be the woman sitting in the painting. However art experts aren’t 100% certain this is the case. According to the Louvre the painting is the oldest known Italian portrait to focus so intensely on the sitter in a half-length portrait.
According to historians, the Mona Lisa was scarcely known outside of art circles before to the twentieth century.
An ex-Louvre employee, however, stole the painting in 1911 and kept it hidden for two years.
Since then, the theft has helped to solidify the painting’s place in popular culture while also introducing millions of people to Renaissance art.
You can view The Mona Lisa at The Louvre in Paris.
1512: Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
Michelangelo’s most famous work covers a part of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, and you have to look up to see it. God and Adam are depicted with outstretched arms, their fingers almost touching.
Today, The Creation of Adam is is one of the most extensively reproduced photos in history.
Michelangelo’s other talent is evident in Adam’s strong shape; David is arguably the most recognized sculpture in the world. This colossal marble statue may be seen in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia.
Among other things, years of exposure to candle smoke had tarnished the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. People were surprised to see the vivid, lively colors Michelangelo originally used after a long, intensive cleaning that completed in 1989.
You can view Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Rome.
1656: Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez
Madrid is the only city in our collection where two of the top ten most famous paintings can be seen, the first being Guernica and the second being Las Maninas. Las Meninas is not just Diego Velázquez’s most famous painting, but also one of his largest, and it is housed at the popular Prado.
For generations, art critics and the general public have been captivated by the work’s complexity. The picture serves as both a portrait and a landscape. It’s a group picture of Spanish nobility that also acts as a self-portrait of Velázquez at work .
King Philip IV of Spain, (who reigned from 1621 to 1665) commissioned Las Menina. It was kept at the royal palace until 1819, when it was transferred to the Prado.
You can view Las Meninas in Museo del Prado in Madrid.
1665: Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer
This fascinating classic is frequently compared to the Mona Lisa. Aside from the artistic distinctions, Girl With a Pearl Earring is known as a ‘tronie’ a Dutch word for a picture of an imaginary woman with exaggerated features; rather than a portrait.
The simplicity of the oil on canvas masterpiece is stunning. With only a black backdrop behind her, the girl in a blue and gold turban and a huge pearl earring is the sole emphasis. The reason why smiles are rarely shown in art history
Between 2012 and 2014, the Mauritshuis was undergoing renovations, and Girl With a Pearl Earring went on tour throughout the United States, Italy, and Japan. It attracted large audiences, cementing its reputation as one of the world’s most famous pieces of art.
You can view Girl with a Pearl Earring at the Mauritshuis, The Hague in Netherlands.
1889: The Starry Night by Vincent van Gogh
Van Gogh’s creative and forceful use of thick brushstrokes is exemplified in this rather abstract picture. For decades, artworks fans have been captivated by the famous paintings vibrant blues and yellows, as well as the dreamy, swirling mood.
When Van Gogh painted The Starry Night he was being treated for mental illness in a mental institution in Saint-Rémy, France. His room’s window provided him with inspiration.
The Starry Night can be viewed at New York’s at Museum of Modern Art.
1893:The Scream by Edvard Munch
There are two famous paintings, two pastels, and an unspecified number of prints, according to a British Museum blog. The works are on display at the National Museum and the Munch Museum, with one of the pastels fetching about $120 million at auction in 2012.
Daring robberies of the two painting versions of “The Scream” (1994 and 2004) helped raise public awareness of the artworks, similar to the case of the “Mona Lisa.” (Both of them were finally discovered.) Everything you thought you knew about ‘The Scream’ was incorrect.
What if I told you that The androgynous figure in the foreground of the Art Nouveau-style picture is trying to block off a piercing screech coming from nature, rather than making the scream. It was inspired by a true experience Munch had while on a sunset stroll in Oslo, when his senses were assaulted by a striking red glow.
1907: The Kiss by Gustav Klimt
Klimt delivers a “wide metaphorical remark about love being at the centre of human existence,” according to the Upper Belvedere museum. People appear to agree, based on its magnetic appeal. While The Kiss is not for sale, other Klimt pieces are frequently purchased and sold for large sums of money.
You can view The Kiss at the Upper Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria.
1937: Guernica by Pablo Picasso
This is the newest of famous paintings on the list, and it depicts the German aerial bombing of Guernica, a Basque village, during the Spanish Civil War.
The painting has that characteristic Picasso style, and its uncompromising study of war’s tragedies made it an important element of twentieth-century culture and history. A visual history of combat through paintings, protests, and propaganda.
During World War II, “Guernica” was transported to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York for safekeeping. Picasso proposed that his stay be extended until Spain regained its democracy. In 1981, six years after the death of longstanding Spanish tyrant Gen. Francisco Franco, it was eventually returned to Madrid.
It can be viewed at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.