This is a list of the highest known prices paid for paintings. Since that time sales of the most valuable paintings have usually been made at auctions, though that had by no means always been the case before, and the list below still shows some “private sales”, including the three most expensive. The current record price was paid for a work from No. 5, 1948 by Jackson Pollock sold at US$140 million in 2006, (approx. $150.6 million in CPI-adjusted 2010 US dollars)
However, the Louvre chose to spend the money that would have been spent on the insurance premium on security instead. Taking inflation into account, the 1962 value would be approximately US$713 million in 2010. The earliest sale on the list (Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh) is from 1987, and more than trebled the previous record price, set only two years before, introducing a new era in top picture prices.
The sale was also significant in that for the first time a “modern” painting (in this case from 1888) became the record holder, as opposed to the old master paintings which had always previously held it. Currently there are only three old master paintings on the list below: namely Portrait of a Halberdier by Pontormo sold at US$35.2 million in 1989, Diana and Actaeon by Titian privately sold at £50 million (US$70.6 million) in 2009 and Massacre of the Innocents by Peter Paul Rubens sold at £49.5 million (US$76.7 million) in 2002. Before the March 1987 sale of Van Gogh’s Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers for $39.7 million ($76.6 million in 2010 dollars), the highest absolute price paid for a painting was $10.45 million ($21.2 million in 2010 dollars) paid by the J. Paul Getty Museum for Mantegna’s Adoration of the Magi at Christie’s in London on April 18, 1985.
In constant dollars, the highest price paid before 1987 was by the National Gallery of Art when in February 1967 they acquired Leonardo da Vinci’s Ginevra de’ Benci for around $5 million ($33 million in 2010 dollars) from the Princely Family of Liechtenstein.
This list is ordered by consumer price index inflation-adjusted value (in bold) in millions of January 2010 United States dollars. Where necessary, the price is first converted to dollars using the exchange rate at the time the painting was sold. The inflation adjustment may change as recent inflation rates are often revised. A list in another currency may be in a slightly different order due to exchange rate fluctuations. Paintings are only listed once, i.e. for the highest price sold.