10 of the Most Significant Paintings in the World

The Last Supper painting
Photo by Renata Sedmakova from Shutterstock

Each and every year, there are billions of dollars worth of art that pass through international auction houses, and top museums hold tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of artworks in their own private collection.

However, there are only a few that ever achieve the needed fame to truly be considered the best artworks in the history of art. However, if you’re interested in this specific area of the art world, you need to start with crème de la crème. That’s why we’ve made a list of the top 10 best works of art that were ever made. Feel welcome to share your opinions on this!

10 of the most famous paintings in the whole world:

Mona Lisa

It shouldn’t surprise anybody that the most famous painting in the whole world is about a mysterious woman with the most enigmatic smile. This is the main idea of this work of art. The subject in the painting is supposedly Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Florence merchant Francesco del Giocondo.

However, experts have serious doubts about it. It represents an extremely innovative moment in the history of art, as the painting is the earliest known Italian portrait that focuses closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait. It was installed in the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1804.

Interesting fact: Before the 20th century, the “Mona Lisa” wasn’t very popular outside art circles. However, in 1911, an ex-Louvre employee stole the portrait and hid it for two years. The theft had a major contribution to the painting’s place in popular culture ever since that moment and exposed lots of curious people to Renaissance art.

The Last Supper

Leonardo was the original “Renaissance Man”, and probably the most famous of everyone else on the list. Also, it’s the only artist that appears twice on our top. He painted in a time when religious imagery was a very dominant artistic theme, and people were still expressing their beliefs through religious depictions.

This is how “The Last Supper” appeared, where is shown how Jesus spend his last night before crucifixion breaking bread with his disciples. In reality, the painting is an enormous fresco: it’s 4.6 meters (15ft) high and 8.8 meters (28.9ft) wide, which makes it a memorable viewing.

Interesting fact: You probably didn’t know this, but the fresco actually survived two wartime threats. The first time was when Napoleon’s troops used the wall on which the fresco was painted to practice target shooting. Also, during World War II, it was exposed to the year for many years.

starry night painting
Photo by Bumble Dee from Shutterstock

The Starry Night

“The Starry Night” was painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1889, and you can now admire it at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Somehow, this painting is one of the first-ever abstract paintings ever, having the signature of van Gogh’s ingenious and bold use of thick brushstrokes.

The painting is filled with striking blues and yellows, and with a dreamy, swirling atmosphere that intrigued art lovers for many decades.

Interesting fact: When he painted “The Starry Night”, the painter was living in an asylum in Saint-Rémy, France. He was treated for a mental illness. He was extremely inspired by the view from the window of his room.

The Scream

Before we begin, it’s worth dispelling a small rumor: “The Scream” isn’t a single work of art. According to a British Museum’s blog, there should be two paintings, two pastels, and an unspecified number of prints.

The paintings can be found in the National Museum and the Munch Museum. Plus, in 2012, one of the pastels got sold for almost $120 million at auction. Similar to the case of “Mona Lisa”, daring thefts that took place in 1994 and 2004 of the two paintings of “The Scream” did nothing but elevate the public’s awareness of the artworks, hence the price.

Interesting fact: The androgynous figure in the Art-Nouveau-style painting isn’t trying to scream, but actually to block out a piercing shriek that comes from nature. The inspiration came from an actual experience Munch had while he was taking a sunset stroll in Oslo, and a dramatic red hue took over his senses.


This is definitely the most recently done painting on this list. Its subject depicts the German aerial bombing of the town of Guernica, which took place in the Basque region in the course of the Spanish Civil War. The painting has a specific Picasso style, with an unflinching examination of the many horrors of war, and it earned its spot in 20th-century culture and history.

Interesting fact: “Guernica” was transported to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York during World War II, due to reasons of safety. Picasso asked for its stay to be extended until Spain regained its democracy. It finally came back to Madrid in 1981, six years after the death of the longtime horrific Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco.

The Kiss

We move from a work of art about hate to a work of art that focuses entirely on love – with Gustav Klimt’s beloved “The Kiss”. At some point, the painter visibly went through a “Golden Period”, with strong Byzantine artistic influences that can be noticed in the highly decorative robes worn by the very passionate, life-sized couple.

According to The Upper Belvedere, “The Kiss” stands for “a very general and allegorical statement about love as the heart of human existence”. And since it has such a magnetic appeal, it might seem as if some people really agree with that.

Interesting fact: Even if “The Kiss” can’t be bought, there are many other works by Klimt that were sold for large amounts of money. For example, Oprah Winfrey offloaded the 1907 artwork “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II” for $150 million in 2016. Don’t worry, she made a $60 million profit!

Girl With a Pearl Earring

This intriguing portrait has been confused many times before with “Mona Lisa”. Besides having a ton of stylistic differences, this painting isn’t technically even a portrait, but more like a “tronie”. A “tronie” is a Dutch word for a painting of an imaginary figure that has its features exaggerated.

The oil on canvas masterpiece is genuinely brilliant and simple. It’s the portrait of a girl that wears a blue and gold turban and an oversized pearl earring. The dark backdrop behind her keeps the focus entirely on her.

Interesting fact: When Mauritshuis underwent a renovation from 2012 to 2014, the painting basically went on a tour in the United States, Italy, and Japan, which only further contributed to its status as one of the most famous paintings in the whole world.

the birth of venus painting
Photo by Hunter Bliss Images from Shutterstock

The Birth of Venus

This is by far the oldest painting on this top, and it’s in serious competition with “The Kiss” for the most sensuous. “The Birth of Venus” was a commission made by one of the members of the wealthy and art-loving Medici family, who are known to have ruled Florence and its proximities for centuries on a row.

During the time of Botticelli, there was a renewed interest in the classic Greek culture that was beautifully blended into the Early Renaissance style. That’s how he creates an admirable figure with the Goddess of Love emerging from a huge scallop shell.

Interesting fact: Here, Venus is featuring two groundbreaking departures from how the style of painting was back then. Botticelli painted on canvas, instead of on a piece of wood, as it was usually done. Also, Venus was completely exposing her body, except for her long, flowing hair and her hand that was covering her most intimate parts.

Las Meninas

Madrid is the only city where you can find two famous artworks from this list: the first is “Guernica” and the second is “Las Meninas”. It can be found at the famous Prado museum. “Las Meninas” is not only one of the most famous paintings made by Diego Velázquez but also one of his largest.

Its complexity has fascinated many art critics for centuries. The painting is basically a double portrait. First, it portrays a group of people that belonged to the Spanish royalty, but it’s also a self-portrait of Velázquez himself while working.

Interesting fact: “Las Meninas” was commissioned by King Philip IV of Spain, who ruled from 1821 to 1665. In 1819, it was moved to the Prado Museum.

Creation of Adam

This is the most famous work of art made by Michelangelo. The work covers a great section of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, that can be found in the Museum of the Vatican. The scene shows how God created Adam, both of them having their arms outstretched, and their fingers barely touching. It’s one of the most replicated images in history.

Interesting fact: The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has been exposed for centuries to candle smoke, alongside many other things. After a long and extensive restoration process that ended in 1989, people were completely shocked to notice the bright, vibrant colors that Michelangelo originally used.

Are you an art fan, but feel as though you have much to learn? This can get you started!

If you enjoyed reading this article, we also recommend reading: Hollywood’s Golden Age: The 11 Most Gorgeous Actresses

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