What Makes A Painting Expensive?

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Edgar Degas

Lalit Bhatt
Lalit Bhatt
Monalisa - Why it is so expensive

Before the 1911 theft of the “Mona Lisa” painting from the Louvre Museum in Paris, it was well-known and highly regarded, but it was not as famous as it is today. The painting was painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the early 16th century and was owned by King Francis I of France, who was a major patron of the arts. However, it was not until the theft and subsequent widespread media coverage that the painting became a global sensation and one of the most famous works of art in the world. The theft and subsequent investigation brought the painting to the forefront of public attention and helped to establish its iconic status.

Vincent van Gogh died poor. Despite having a passion for art, he struggled to make a living from his work during his lifetime. He could never sell a painting during his lifetime for a high price. In fact, he sold only a small number of paintings, and most of them were sold for relatively modest sums. The highest price that is known to have been paid for one of his paintings during his lifetime was 400 francs for “The Red Vineyard,” which was sold to Anna Boch, a Belgian painter and collector.

However after his death, the value of van Gogh’s paintings has increased significantly and  now fetch hundreds of millions of dollars at auction. In 2017, his “Painting, Wheat Field with Cypresses” sold for a record-breaking $82.5 million at a Christie’s auction in New York.

One of the main reasons  for later fame was the interest and support of his brother, Theo van Gogh, who was an art dealer. Theo promoted Vincent’s work after his death, and helped to organize exhibitions of his paintings. Additionally, the art community and critics eventually began to recognize the unique style and significant contributions of Vincent van Gogh to the post-impressionist movement. As a result, his paintings and drawings gained popularity and his reputation as an artist grew. Today, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time, and his works are some of the most valuable and highly sought after in the world.

Check Painting Price calculator


A painting can be considered expensive for several reasons such as:

  1. Rarity and uniqueness – A painting that is one-of-a-kind, has historical or cultural significance, or was created by a famous artist is likely to be expensive. As mentioned above, Monalisa is one such example.

  2. Artist’s reputation – Paintings by well-established and renowned artists tend to command high prices, especially if they have a history of selling their work for significant amounts. Some of the reputed names are Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Pablo Picasso among many. Raja Ravi Varma, Abanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, M. F. Husain are some of the names from India.

  3. Condition – Paintings that are in excellent condition and have been well-maintained over time are more valuable than those that have been damaged or are in poor condition.

  4. Supply-Demand – High demand for a particular artist or style of painting can drive up prices. At times when an artist dies, it drives up the price. The artist’s death leads to a situation when only a finite number of their work exists. This creates a supply constraint. And this is not uncommon for the world to take note of things when it ceases to exist. 

  5. Size – Larger paintings typically sell for more than smaller ones, all else being equal. Large size paintings also need higher skill level to execute them. Artist Emad Salehi created a new world record for the largest art canvas measuring at 9,652 m² (103,893 ft² 37 in²) in Doha, Qatar. The artwork is called “The story of the ball”.

  6. Provenance – Paintings with a documented history of ownership, exhibitions, and previous sales can be more valuable than those with little to no provenance.

Image credit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Indian Spices
Jaipur Spices Festival: A Flavorful Odyssey

The Jaipur Spices Festival showcases an impressive variety of spices and spice blends that are integral to Indian cuisine. Visitors can explore a myriad of flavors and aromas, from the warmth of cumin and coriander to the fiery heat of red chili powder and the fragrances of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cloves, cardamom.

Read More »
The Phenomenon of Rising Bid Values in Indian Art Auctions
The Phenomenon of Rising Bid Values in Indian Art Auctions

In the realm of art, India stands as a vibrant tapestry woven with culture, tradition, and boundless creativity. From the intricate brushstrokes of Raja Ravi Varma to the avant-garde visions of Tyeb Mehta, Indian artists have left an indelible mark on the global art landscape. However, it’s not merely the artistic brilliance that captivates attention; it’s the remarkable surge in bids witnessed at Indian art auctions that are garnering widespread acclaim and international headlines.

Read More »