Top 10 Most Famous Paintings In The World

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The most well-known artwork in the world is the result of both genius and unbridled natural talent, but each piece also has an intriguing backstory. These ... read more...

  1. Since Leonardo da Vinci created the Mona Lisa in the early 1500s, it has been widely regarded as the most famous painting in the entire world. Lisa del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine family member, is honored by having the painting bear her name. Vincenzo Peruggia, a worker at the Louvre who was an Italian nationalist and thought the Mona Lisa should be given back to Italy, stole the painting in 1911. Peruggia managed to conceal the artwork in his apartment for two years before being discovered when he tried to sell it to Florence's Uffizi Gallery. The Mona Lisa is once again on display at the Louvre in Paris, where 6 million visitors view the artwork annually.

    Leonardo's sfumato style of soft, finely shaded modeling, which is characterized by a female subject dressed in Florentine garb and seated in a surreal mountainous setting, is beautifully demonstrated in this portrait of a woman. The Mona Lisa has received praise from people all around the world for her enigmatic appearance, which is both alluring and remote.

    Leonardo da Vinci was one of the first artists to use aerial perspective, and the portrait was among the first to show the subject in front of a made-up scene.

    The enigmatic figure is seated in a space that appears to be an open loggia with black pillar bases on either side. Mountains covered in snow may be seen behind her in a vast panorama. The only indications of human presence are winding roads and a distant bridge. The hazy edges, flowing shapes, startling contrasts of light and dark, and a general sense of calmness define Da Vinci's style. Given the expressive harmony da Vinci achieved between person and surroundings and the fact that the Mona Lisa represents an ideal rather than a real woman, it is questionable whether the painting should be referred to be a traditional portrait.

    The sitter's slight grin and the general harmony of the piece communicate the idea of a connection between people and nature.

    Artist: Leonardo da Vinci

    Estimated date: 1503 to 1519

    Where to see it: Louvre Museum (Paris)

    Portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo (c. 1503) by Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    Portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo (c. 1503) by Leonardo da Vinci; Leonardo da Vinci, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    The large crowds visiting the Louvre will persuade you if you had any concerns about the
    The large crowds visiting the Louvre will persuade you if you had any concerns about the "Mona Lisa's" extreme appeal. Credit: Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

  2. The only artist to make this list twice is Leonardo, who is considered to be the first "Renaissance Man." The Last Supper is a painting that represents the final meal that Jesus shared with his followers before he was crucified. It was created during a time when religious imagery was still a popular artistic theme.

    One of the most well-known pieces of art in the world is The Last Supper, which was painted in the 1490s on a refectory wall in the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan. Even though the original has suffered greatly from the time and wear and tear, visitors from all over the world continue to flock to the convent to witness the magnificent fresco. A betrayer will be among the Twelve Apostles, Jesus Christ tells them in this amazing artwork of the scene.

    Some authors contend that Mary Magdalene, not John the Apostle, is seated at Jesus' left in the artwork. This widely accepted hypothesis is a major theme in Dan Brown's book The Da Vinci Code.

    4.6 meters (15 feet) high and 8.8 meters (28.9 feet) broad, the painting is actually a massive fresco that makes for an impressive sight. The refectory wall where the fresco was created was used as target practice by Napoleon's forces, yet the fresco has withstood both of those dangers. When the top of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan was devastated by bombs during World War II, it was also exposed to the air for a number of years.

    Artist: Leonardo da Vinci

    Estimated date: 1495 to 1498

    Where to see it: Santa Maria Delle Grazie (Milan, Italy)

    Visitors take photos of
    Visitors take photos of "The Last Supper" ("Il Cenacolo or L'Ultima Cena") at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. Credit: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images
    Wikimedia Commons
    Wikimedia Commons
  3. The oil-on-canvas piece is dominated by a night sky spinning with vibrant blue spirals, a brilliant golden crescent moon, and constellations portrayed as radiating spheres. A few cypress trees that resemble flames tower above the area from the side, their dark branches bending and swaying with the motion of the partially clouded sky. In the midst of all of this action, in the bottom right corner of the canvas, is a structured settlement.

    Straight, ordered lines make up the modest homes and the church's tiny spire, which stands out against the blue hills' undulations.

    The residences' dazzling bright squares evoke the warm lighting of seRené homes and offer a tranquil haven amidst the chaos of the artwork. After having a breakdown in which he used a razor to cut off a part of his own earlobe, Van Gogh painted for several months while confined to an institution. He painted when he was in the facility in bursts that alternated with sad states of mind.

    The comparably abstract artwork serves as the emblematic illustration of van Gogh's daring and inventive application of heavy brushstrokes. Art aficionados have been captivated by the painting's brilliant blues and yellows as well as the dreamy, swirling mood for decades. When he created "The Starry Night," Van Gogh was receiving treatment for his mental condition in a hospital in Saint-Rémy, France. The scene outside his window in his room gave him inspiration.

    Artist: Vincent van Gogh

    Date: 1889

    Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art (New York City)

    Tourists look at
    Tourists look at "The Starry Night" by Vincent Van Gogh at Museum of Modern Art in New York. Credit: Victor Fraile Rodriguez/Corbis/Getty Images
    The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    The Starry Night (1889) by Vincent van Gogh; Vincent van Gogh, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  4. The Scream is arguably the most well-known human image in Western art history, rivaled only by the Mona Lisa. Our collective cultural awareness has been shaped by its ambiguous, skull-shaped head, outstretched hands, enormous eyes, flaring nostrils, and oval mouth; the swirling blue surroundings, particularly the blazing orange and yellow sky, have given rise to a number of interpretations about the scenario represented.

    Norwegian artist Edvard Munch created a series of expressionist paintings and prints titled The Scream that depicts a figure in agony against a blood-red sky. Oslofjord can be seen in the background as seen from a hill in Oslo. The Scream was reimagined by Edvard Munch in a number of different media. The National Gallery of Norway has the original painting, which was created in 1893. It was taken in 1994 during a well-publicized art theft and found a few months later. Another rendition of The Scream was taken from the Munch Museum in 2004; it was later found there in 2006.

    Artist: Edvard Munch

    Date: 1893

    Where to see it: National Museum (Oslo, Norway -- opening in 2020) and Munch Museum (Oslo -- through May 2020)

    "The Scream" by Edvard Munch is installed for a special exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Credit: The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images
    The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch; Edvard Munch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch; Edvard Munch, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  5. Guernica, one of Pablo Picasso's most renowned and celebrated pieces of art, depicts the tragic events surrounding the bombardment of the Basque town of the same name. The renowned Cubist emphasizes the devastation Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy inflicted on the town through a sequence of black, white, and grey forms and figures.

    Guernica, which was painted in 1937, is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential anti-war works of art in history. Picasso's masterpiece is currently on display at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, while the United Nations headquarters in New York is home to a replica tapestry of his well-known piece.

    Some people believe that Pablo Picasso's masterpiece depicting the Spanish Civil War is the best war-related artwork in all of history. Picasso's artwork, in addition to being a massive allegory of the horrors of war, may have been done on purpose to transform bystanders into active participants, encouraging both group transformation and policy decisions.

    Picasso believed that by doing this, he would be able to modify government policies and broaden the conversation beyond the borders of his war-torn nation.

    Artist: Pablo Picasso

    Date: 1937

    Where to see it: Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid)

    A replica of Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso; Winfried Weithofer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
    A replica of Guernica (1937) by Pablo Picasso; Winfried Weithofer, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
    View of Pablo Picasso's
    View of Pablo Picasso's "Guernica" at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. Credit: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
  6. The Kiss, a painting by Gustav Klimt created between 1907 and 1908 at the height of his "Golden Period," truly shimmers and glows before your eyes as gold, silver, and platinum shoot out from the canvas. A 180cm × 180cm piece of art is now on display in Vienna's Austrian gallery.

    A loving pair is shown kissing while knelt in a flowery meadow. The male leans in to kiss the woman while clutching her face and donning a vine crown on his head and a geometrically patterned robe. The female figure contrasts with her spouse by donning flowers in her hair and bright, naturally patterned clothing. She wraps her arms around his shoulders, her eyes closed contently, adding to the peace and intimacy of the moment.

    Symbolism, a European artistic movement characterized by mystical aspects, a personalized attitude toward the creative arts, and a style similar to contemporary Art Nouveau trends, was pioneered by Gustav Klimt, a member of the Secessionist Style. His brilliant "Golden Period," which produced The Kiss, best captures his distinctive flair.

    Artist: Gustav Klimt

    Estimated date: 1907 to 1908

    Where to see it: Upper Belvedere Museum (Vienna, Austria)

    The Kiss (1908) by Gustav Klimt; Gustav Klimt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    The Kiss (1908) by Gustav Klimt; Gustav Klimt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    Du khách chiêm ngưỡng
    Du khách chiêm ngưỡng "Nụ hôn" của Gustav Klimt tại Upper Belvedere ở Vienna, Áo. Tín dụng: Omar Marques / Anadolu Agency / Getty Imagesges
  7. The artwork has drawn a staggering number of visitors to the art museum in The Hague, where it is currently housed, throughout history. The girl's unusual position, her enigmatic appearance, the colors, and the excellent quality of the light all contributed to its legendary status.

    Even while it appears to be a portrait and is sometimes likened to the Mona Lisa, the artwork is actually a "tronie," which is a painting of an imagined person illustrating a particular type of character. The intriguing painting, which the Dutch painter is thought to have created sometime about 1665, shows an imagined female rather than a real one wearing a blue turban and a sizable pearl earring.

    A young, attractive woman is depicted in the Girl With a Pearl Earring, decked out in an exotic gown, an oriental headpiece, and an incredibly large pearl in her ear. There are no obvious warts, scars, or flaws to be seen in this piece of art, even if a female model sat and posed for it. The young lady is dressed in a vivid yellow and blue turban and a shining pearl against a black background. Vermeer's mastery of light and tone is evident in her radiant skin, and her parted red lips are given a moist appearance by tiny white glints.

    The girl's close-up stare gives the impression that she is someone we know even if we don't know who she is.

    Artist: Johannes Vermeer

    Estimated date: 1665

    Where to see it: Mauritshuis (The Hague, Netherlands)

    A journalist takes a photo of Johannes Vermeer's
    A journalist takes a photo of Johannes Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" at the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague, Netherlands. Credit: Michel Porro/Getty Images
    Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer; Johannes Vermeer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
    Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer; Johannes Vermeer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  8. The Birth of Venus, the oldest picture in the top 10 and rival to "The Kiss" for most sensual, was probably commissioned by a wealthy and art-loving member of the Medici family, which governed Florence and the surrounding regions for centuries.

    With the Goddess of Love emerging from a massive scallop shell, Botticelli created an iconic figure that combines a resurgence of interest in classical Greek culture with Early Renaissance design.

    Two notable differences between "Venus" by Botticelli and the majority of his contemporaries' paintings may be seen.

    He began by using canvas as opposed to the more common wood to paint on. Second, it was audacious that Venus is entirely exposed, save for her long, flowing hair and a hand that (just) covers her most private body parts, because nudity was uncommon at the period.

    Artist: Sandro Botticelli

    Estimated date: 1485

    Where to see it: Le Gallerie Degli Uffizi (Florence, Italy)

    A journalist examines
    A journalist examines "The Birth of Venus" by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli during a press preview at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, in October 2016. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images
    Wikimedia Commons
    Wikimedia Commons
  9. There aren't many pieces of art whose initial purpose is still a mystery. Diego Velazquez painted Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-waiting) in 1656 and it shows a scene from the Spanish court, while Velazquez served as royal chamberlain. Art historians have been rather perplexed by the scene because it features a strange array of individuals, including Velazquez, a nun, a dwarf, and a princess. It was a departure from more traditional royal portraiture, which often only includes the royal family and is organized in a very structured and hierarchical way.

    Madrid is the only city in this list where two of the top ten paintings can be found, with "Las Meninas" at No. 9 and "Guernica" at No. 5 respectively. Diego Velázquez's "Las Meninas," one of his largest paintings, is housed at the well-known and sizable Prado. It is also one of his most well-known works. Art critics and the general public have been captivated by the work's complexity for centuries. The artwork serves as both a portrait and a landscape. In addition to being a group picture of the Spanish royal family, it is a self-portrait of Velázquez working (on the left).

    From 1621 through 1665, Spain's King Philip IV ordered the production of "Las Meninas." Prior to moving to the Prado in 1819, it was kept in the royal palace.

    Artist: Diego Velázquez

    Date: 1656

    Where to see it: Museo del Prado (Madrid)

    Diego Velazquez's
    Diego Velazquez's "Las Meninas" is seen at the Prado museum on November 19, 2013 in Madrid, Spain. Credit: Denis Doyle/Getty Images
    Wikimedia Commons
    Wikimedia Commons
  10. The Creation of Adam, which is only a small portion of the spectacular fresco that fills the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, is, along with the statue of David, possibly Michelangelo's most well-known and revered creation. God is seen in the biblical scenario reaching out and extending to create Adam, the first man.

    The Creation of Adam is prominently displayed among the major panels of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which was painted between 1508 and 1512 at Pope Julius II's request. This beautiful painting, which has been copied and replicated countless times since is only one of the Renaissance man's numerous masterpieces.

    The finest piece of art ever created in the fresco style is Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, which is shown on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. He labored on his back for hours at a time on scaffolding for more than four years to finish the project. Over 300 characters are depicted in the painting, which has a total surface of over 500 square meters. Nine episodes from the book of Genesis are depicted in the ceiling's central line.

    It is one of the most well-known religious pieces of art ever created, along with The Last Supper. The only way to properly understand how much time and effort was put into it is to stand beneath it and look up at it.

    Artist: Michelangelo

    On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at The Vatican, the
    On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel at The Vatican, the "Creation of Adam" rounds out the top 10 most famous paintings list. Credit: VCG/Corbis/Getty Images

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