The 10 most famous paintings in the world (2023)

Written byForrest Brown, CNN

Every year, billions of dollars worth of art go through international auctions, while major museums have tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of works of art in their collections. But very few achieve the necessary fame to truly be considered household names.

Since "famous" is a subjective term,CNN styleturned to Google to see which paintings topped search results around the world over the past five years.

We compare dozens of popular masterpieces, from classics like"Monalisa," "A Grande Onda de Kanagawa"it's him"Savior of the world"to more modern works like "Nighthawks" and even the "Dogs Playing Poker" series.

Based on these results, these are the 10 most sought-after paintings in the world:

1. 'Mona Lisa'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (1)

If you had any doubts about the enormous popularity of "Mona Lisa", the crowds at the Louvre will convince you.

Credit:Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images

Artist:Leonardo da Vinci
Estimated date:1503 a 1519
Where to watch: Louvre Museum(Paris)

It should come as no surprise that the most famous painting in the world is that mysterious woman with the enigmatic smile. But that's one of the few certainties about this work of art.

The painting's nanny is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, wife of Florentine merchant Francesco del Giocondo, but experts aren't sure. This represented a breakthrough in art: the painting is the first known Italian portrait to focus so closely on the subject in a half-length portrait.according to the louvre, where it was first installed in 1804.

What's special about the Mona Lisa?

did you knowPrior to the 20th century, historians say the "Mona Lisa" was little known outside of artistic circles. But in 1911, a former employee of the Louvrebruisedthe portrait and hid it for two years. That theft helped cement the painting's place in popular culture ever since and exposed millions to Renaissance art.

2. 'The Last Supper'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (3)

Visitors take pictures of 'The Last Supper' ('Il Cenacolo o L'Ultima Cena') at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy.

Credit:Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images

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Artist:Leonardo da Vinci
Estimated date:1495 a 1498
Where to watch: Santa Maria delle Grazie(Milan, Italy)

Leonardo, the original "Renaissance Man", is the only artist to appear twice on this list.

Painted at a time when religious imagery was still a dominant artistic theme, "The Last Supper" depicts the last time Jesus broke bread with his disciples before his crucifixion.

the painting isreally a great fresco-- 15 feet (4.6 meters) high and 28.9 feet (8.8 meters) wide, creating a memorable sight.

The Enduring Legacy of Leonardo da Vinci

did you knowThe fresco survived two threats during the war: Napoleon's troops used the refectory wall on which the fresco was painted as target practice. It was also exposed to the air for several years when a bombing during World War II destroyed the roof of the Dominican convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

3. 'The Starry Night'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (5)

Tourists watch Vincent Van Gogh's "The Starry Night" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Credit:Victor Fraile Rodriguez/Corbis/Getty Images

Artist:Vincent Van Gogh
Where to watch: Modern Art Museum(New York)

The comparatively abstract painting is the hallmark example of Van Gogh's bold and innovative use of thick brushstrokes. The striking blues and yellows of the painting and the swirling dreamlike atmosphere intrigued art lovers. for decades.

Documents Relive Van Gogh's Time in London

did you knowVan GoghI was living in a nursing homein Saint-Rémy, France, in treatment for mental illness, when he painted "The Starry Night". He was inspired by the view from her bedroom window.

4. 'The Scream'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (7)

"The Scream" by Edvard Munch is installed for a special exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Credit:El Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images

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Artist:Edvard Munch
Where to watch: National Museum(Oslo, Norway -- opening 2020) andMunch Museum(Oslo, until May 2020)

First things first: "The Scream" is not a single work of art. According toa British Museum blog, there are two paintings, two pastels and then an unknown number of engravings. The paintings reside at the National Museum and the Munch Museum, and in 2012, one of the pastelssold for nearly $120 millionAt auction.

As in the case of "Mona Lisa", the daring thefts (1994 and 2004) of the two pictorial versions of "The Scream" helped raise public awareness of the artworks. (Both were eventually found.)

Everything You Thought About 'The Scream' Is Wrong

did you knowThe androgynous figure in front of the Art Nouveau painting is not producing the scream, but is trying to block a piercing scream coming from nature. It was inspired by areal experienceMunch was taking a sunset stroll in Oslo when a dramatic shade of red overwhelmed his senses.

5. 'Guernica'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (9)

View of "Guernica" by Pablo Picasso in the Museu Reina Sofía in Madrid, Spain.

Credit:Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Artist:Pablo Picasso
Where to watch: Queen Sofia Museum(mothers)

This is the most recent painting on this list and depicts the German aerial bombardment of the town of Guernica in the Basque region during the Spanish Civil War.

The painting has that distinctive Picasso style, and its unflinching examination of the horrors of war made it an essential part of 20th-century culture and history.

Paintings, Protest, and Propaganda: A Visual History of War

did you know The "Guernica" was movedto the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in New York during World War II for safekeeping. Picasso asked that the stay be extended until democracy returned to Spain. He finally returned to Madrid in 1981, six years after the death of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

6. 'The Kiss'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (11)

Visitors admire Gustav Klimt's 'The Kiss' at the Upper Belvedere in Vienna, Austria.

Credit:Omar Marques/Agencia Anadolu/Getty Imagesges

Artist:Gustav Klimt
Estimated date:1907 a 1908
Where to watch: Upper Belvedere Museum(Vienna, Austria)

With issue 6, we move from a study in hate to a study in love with Gustav Klimt's beloved "The Kiss".

From Klimt's "Golden Period".Byzantine artistic influencescan be seen in the very decorative life-size robes worn by the loving couple.

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El Alto Belvedere dictthat with "The Kiss" Klimt makes a "general allegorical claim that love is at the heart of human existence". Given its magnetic appeal, it seems people agree.

The legacy of Gustav Klimt and his enduring 'Kiss'

did you knowWhile "The Kiss" is not for sale, other works by Klimt are being bought and sold for huge sums. Oprah Winfrey downloaded the The 1907 artwork "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer II" for $150 million in 2016 with a profit of $60 million.

7. 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (13)

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

Artist:Johannes Vermeer
Estimated date:1665
Where to watch: Mauritshuis(The Hague, Netherlands)

This intriguing favorite is often compared to the "Mona Lisa". Aside from stylistic differences, technically "Girl with a Pearl Earring" isn't even a portrait,but a "throne"-- a Dutch word for a painting of an imaginary figure with exaggerated features.

The oil on canvas masterpiece is brilliant in its simplicity. The girl, wearing a blue and gold turban and an oversized pearl earring, is the full focus with only a dark background behind her.

The reason we rarely see smiles in art history

did you knowWhile the Mauritshuis underwent renovations from 2012 to 2014, "Girl with a Pearl Earring"went on tourin the United States, Italy and Japan. It drew large crowds, further reinforcing its status as one of the most famous works of art in the world.

8. 'The Birth of Venus'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (15)

A journalist examines "The Birth of Venus" by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli during a press presentation at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, in October 2016.

Credit:Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images

Artist:Sandro Botticelli
Estimated date:1485
Where to watch: The Uffizi Galleries(Florence, Italy)

The oldest painting in the top 10 and competing with "The Kiss" for the most sensual, "The Birth of Venus"was probably commissionedby a member of the wealthy and art-lovingmedical family, who ruled Florence and its surroundings for centuries.

Marrying a renewed interest in classical Greek culture with early Renaissance style, Botticelli creates an unforgettable figure with the Goddess of Love emerging from an enormous scallop shell.

Botticelli's 'imitation' painting yields a big surprise

did you knowCharacteristics of Botticelli's "Venus"two significant matchesof most other works by his contemporaries.

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First, he painted on canvas instead ofmost popularwood. Second, nudity was rare at the time, so it was daring for Venus to be fully exposed, without her long, flowing hair and one hand that (barely) covered the most intimate parts of her body.

9. 'Las Meninas'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (17)

'Las Meninas' by Diego Velazquez at the Prado Museum on November 19, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.

Credit:Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Artist:Diego Velazquez
Where to watch: Prado Museum(mothers)

Madrid is the only city in this summary where you will find two of the 10 most famous paintings, the first being "Guernica" at #5 and "Las Maninas" here at #9.

Located in the popular (and vast) Prado, "Las Meninas" is not only Diego Velázquez's most famous painting,It is also one of its biggest. The complexity of the work has fascinated art critics and the public for centuries.

The painting fulfills the role of portrait. It serves as a group portrait of Spanish royalty, but it is also a self-portrait of Velázquez himself at work (left).

8 famous artists who hid self-portraits in their paintings

did you know"Las Meninas" was commissioned byKing Felipe IV of Spain, who ruled from 1621 to 1665. He remained inroyal palace until 1819, when I went to Prado.

10. 'Creation of Adam'

The 10 most famous paintings in the world (19)

On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the "Creation of Adam" completes the list of the 10 most famous paintings.

Credit:Imagens VCG/Corbis/Getty

Artist:Miguel Angel
Data:1508 a 1512
Where to watch: Sistine Chapel(Vatican CITY)

Renowned artist Michelangelo's most famous work covers a section of the Sistine Chapel ceiling; you have to look up to see it. The scene depicts God and Adam with their arms outstretched, their fingers almost touching. It is one of the most replicated images in history.

Adam's muscular form hints at another of Michelangelo's talents: his "David" is arguably the most famous sculpture in the world. You can see the imposing marble statue in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence.

500-year-old sculptures confirmed to be Michelangelo's only surviving bronzes

did you knowThe ceiling of the Sistine Chapel wasnumb for centuriesfrom exposure to candle smoke, among many other things. After a long and extensive cleanup that ended in 1989, people were amazed to see the bright, vibrant colors that Michelangelo originally used.

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Five more frames that came close

Here are five more famous paintings that came close to making the top 10 list:


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