“A priceless work of art” – a phrase often heard in museums, spoken by people who may have forgotten that someone, sometime, did actually pay for the piece at hand, and thus, like it or not, a certain concrete value has in fact been assigned to it. That said, it was almost never the artist who made a fortune on their new work but the many art dealers who recognized its true value – and were also not afraid to ask a high price for it.
The model for the most expensive painting of all time is none other than the wife of a Florentine silk merchant. It was commissioned by Francesco del Giocondo to commemorate the birth of his second son, Andrea; but Leonardo never delivered the painting, and thus received no compensation for it. It was not for a lack of effort, however: the painter spent four years on the piece in Italy, then took it with him to France, and kept refining it until his death.
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Salaì is believed to have been the lover of Leonardo.
Rembrandt is one of the most expensive painters in the world. In 2009, one of his paintings, which is much smaller than "The Night Watch" and depicts only a sole person, auctioned for 150 million dollars.
"The Impression, Sunrise" by Monet was last displayed abroad in 1957. When it was exhibited in Scotland, a 10 million pound insurance policy was taken out for it. It has not been borrowed since; it is too valuable.