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15 Famous Paintings In The World And Where To Find The Original One

Art has a way of transcending time and culture, speaking to the shared human experience in a way that words often can’t. 

Throughout history, certain paintings have captured the world’s imagination and embedded themselves into our collective consciousness. 

From the ethereal beauty of the Mona Lisa’s smile to the haunting anguish of The Scream, these iconic works have a power that resonates across generations.

In addition, these are also some of the most copied paintings that have various versions throughout the world. 

Hence, in this curated collection, we’ll explore the 15 most famous paintings and where to find the original art piece.

Mona Lisa – Louvre Museum, Paris

Artist: Leonardo da Vinci

Estimated Year: 1503 to 1519

Where to see it: Louvre Museum (Paris)

Painted between 1503 and 1517, Leonardo da Vinci’s captivating portrait has intrigued people with two main questions since its creation: 

  • Who is the woman in the painting?
  • Why is she smiling? 

The woman in the painting is believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a merchant from Florence named Francesco del Giocondo, although experts are uncertain. 

The artwork was groundbreaking for its time, as it was one of the earliest Italian portraits to focus closely on the subject in a half-length portrait.

Since 1804, the Mona Lisa has been housed in the Paris Louvre Museum.

However, before the 20th century, the “Mona Lisa” wasn’t widely known outside artistic circles. 

It was only after the infamous 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa by a former employee that the painting gained fame. 

Now, millions of people in the world flock to the Louvre Museum to see the original Mona Lisa Painting. 

Visitors should note that there are four known versions of the Mona Lisa made by da Vinci and his students and they can be found in museums worldwide. 

If you wish to see the prime and original version of the Mona Lisa, then the Louvre Museum is your place to be. 

The painting is placed securely in a bulletproof glass box on the first level of Denon’s wing. 

Louvre Museum also offers a dedicated Mona Lisa guided tour for you to learn more about the mystery lady. 

Related Reads: What’s so special about Mona Lisa and how to visit her?

💡Louvre is the most famous museum in the world. It houses not only the Mona Lisa but 35,000 other amazing artworks, too. Learn more about the top 10 Louvre Museum masterpieces you shouldn’t miss on your visit. 

The Starry Night – MoMA, New York

Artist: Vincent van Gogh

Year: 1889

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

Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night is a well-known painting from the post-impressionist era. 

This painting is unique because Van Gogh didn’t paint it while looking at something; he did it from his own memory. 

He created it while he was in a hospital in Saint-Remy, dealing with episodes of mental illness.

While you can find Starry Night in almost all modern art museums, the original painting of Starry Night (1889) can only be found in the New York Museum of Modern Arts. 

This is the classic and most famous Starry Night painting. 

You can find Starry Night Over the Rhone, the successor of this painting at Musee d’Orsay. 

While the classic Starry Night depicts van Gogh’s confusion and overwhelming thoughts, the Starry  Night Over the Rhone depicts tranquility.

Related Read: Details about Starry Night you never knew

The Last Supper – Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan 

Artist: Leonardo da Vinci

Estimated Year: 1495 to 1498

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

While not exactly a painting, the Last Supper is one of the most famous frescos. 

Created by Leonardo da Vinci, this fresco depicts Jesus’ final meal before his betrayal, arrest, and death. 

For over 500 years, the Last Supper has undergone restoration at least five times, with the most recent lasting 21 years. 

Discussions about this artwork often involve its composition, shapes, colors, theories about hidden symbols, etc.

Mary Magdalene seated next to Jesus is another important point of discussion in this painting. 

This significant piece of art can be found in the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery in Milan, making it one of the most famous art treasures.

Due to its fragile nature, the church only allows 25 visitors at a time to witness the Last Supper. 

They also offer a guided tour of the Last Supper to learn more amazing facts about the painting. 

Hence, if you are traveling to Milan, add a guided tour of Last Supper to your bucket list. 

Related Reads: 10 Hidden facts about Last Supper that will surprise you

Girl With A Pearl Earring – Mauritshuis, Hauge

Artist: Johannes Vermeer

Estimated Year: 1665

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

Jan Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is sometimes called the Mona Lisa of the North because it’s really famous, and the girl’s mysterious smile resembles Mona Lisa. 

Not much is known about the painting as it doesn’t have a date and nobody knows who the girl is. 

Technically, it’s not even a full portrait – it’s called a “troni” in Dutch, which means just a person’s head, not the whole body. 

Can you believe that back in 1881, someone bought it at an auction for just two guilders and thirty cents? Crazy, right?

From 2012 to 2014, while the Mauritshuis Gallery in The Hague was getting fixed up, the painting went on a big trip to the USA, Italy, and Japan. 

People everywhere went nuts to see it, and now it’s even more famous. 

You can check it out at the Mauritshuis Gallery in The Hague.

The Birth Of Venus – Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Artist: Sandro Botticelli

Estimated Year: 1485

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

Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus became instantly famous as it was the first full-length nude painting that hadn’t been about religion since ancient times. 

Botticelli made this painting for Lorenzo de Medici. 

Some say the lady in the painting, the Goddess of Love, was based on a real woman named Simonetta Cattaneo Vespucci. 

Legend has it that she was close to Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano. 

In the painting, Venus is shown being carried to shore on a big clamshell by the wind gods, with spring waiting for her. 

However, not everyone liked the painting. 

For instance, monk Savonarola tried eliminating anything he thought was too secular or worldly, including makeup, art and books. 

He also tried to burn the Birth of Venus, but the attempt failed. 

Since 1890, the Birth of Venus has been housed in Uffizi Gallery, Florence. 

You can find the painting in Room A12. BOTTICELLI Venus

Related Reading: Birth of Venus at Uffizi or Michelangelo’s David at Accademia Gallery, which to visit

The Creation Of Adam – Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum 

Artist: Michelangelo

Estimated Year: 1508 to 1512

Where to see it: Sistine Chapel (Vatican City)

The Creation of Adam, even though a fresco (like the Last Judgement), is undoubtedly one of the most popular artworks in the world made by Michelangelo. 

You can find Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, the Vatican Museum‘s last room

It’s the fourth of nine famous artworks in the center, all showing scenes from the Book of Genesis. 

This fresco tells the story of God creating the first human. 

Besides showing perfect human shapes, it’s also one of the earliest attempts in art history to portray God himself.

During the four-year creation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo devoted 16 days to painting the Creation of Adam, one of the most challenging artworks.

The Scream – National Museum, Oslo

Artist: Edvard Munch

Estimated Year: 1893

Where to see it: National Museum (Oslo, Norway)

The Scream is a well-known masterpiece by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. 

He painted four versions of it between 1893 and 1910. 

This particular painting can be found in both the National Gallery of Oslo. 

It’s recognized for its unique style, where realism takes a backseat to allow emotions to shine through more freely.

The Kiss – Belvedere Museum, Vienna

Artist: Gustav Klimt

Estimated Year: 1907 to 1908

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

Gustav Klimt’s painting “The Kiss” is super fancy and has many gold and fancy patterns. 

It’s a mix of Symbolism and Vienna Jugendstil, which is just a fancy way of saying Austrian Art Nouveau. 

Klimt makes his people look like they’re from myths but in a modern way, with many cool designs. 

This painting is from Klimt’s Golden Phase between 1899 and 1910 and can be found in the Upper Belvedere Palace Museum in Vienne, Austria. 

The Persistence Of Memory – MoMA, New York

Artist: Salvador Dali

Estimated Year: 1931

Where to see it: Museum of Modern Art

According to Dali, he painted the picture based on his strange thoughts when looking at melted cheese. 

Gala, his wife, predicted that once people saw the Persistence of Memory, they would never forget it. 

This remarkable painting, considered one of the greatest artworks ever, is housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait – Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Artist: Van Gogh

Year: 1889

Where to see it: Musee d’Orsay

Self Portraits are one of the most famous paintings done by Vincent Van Gogh. 

He created a series of self-portraits while he was staying at the asylum in St.-Rémy after experiencing a mental breakdown. 

This painting is one of the most famous and amongst the last self-portraits he made during his time there. 

Van Gogh strongly believed that only through work could he regain his health. 

Today, this painting is housed in Musee d’Orsay, Paris. 

The Night Watch – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Artist: Rembrandt Van Rijn

Estimated Year: 1642

Where to see it: Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The original title of this painting by Rembrandt is the Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. 

In the 19th century, art critics who first examined the painting thought that the figures stood against a dark background, so they called it the Night Watch. 

Later, it was discovered that a layer of soot had made the painting appear dark, even though the scene takes place during the day. 

However, the painting became known as the Night Watch and is now housed in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Water Lilies

Artist: Claude Monet

Year: 1906

Where to see it: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Musee d’Orangiere

Water Lilies is a masterpiece by the renowned French Impressionist artist Claude Monet, capturing the ethereal beauty of nature.

Created between 1915 and 1926, this series of paintings showcases Monet’s fascination with light, color, and the ever-changing reflections on the water’s surface.

The original Water Lilies paintings can be found in various museums worldwide, as Monet created multiple works in this series. 

One of the most notable locations to view these masterpieces is the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris.

There, visitors can experience the immersive display of Water Lilies in specially designed oval rooms. 

Additionally, some pieces from the series are housed in other prestigious institutions, such as the MoMA and the MET in New York and the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

These paintings continue to captivate art enthusiasts, celebrating nature’s tranquility and Monet’s genius.

Cafe Terrace At Night – Kröller-Müller Museum

Artist: Vincent Van Gogh

Estimated Year: 1938

Where to see it: Kröller-Müller Museum

Café Terrace at Night is part of a series of paintings by Vincent van Gogh created during his time in Arles. 

Van Gogh chose the famous Café Terrace at The Place du Forum in Arles as the subject for this masterpiece. 

If you visit Arles, you can find where Van Gogh set up his easel to paint this scene. 

He used a large canvas size 25 to capture the vibrant colors and tones that defy the darkening night sky. 

Although Van Gogh didn’t sign the painting, he described it in detail in letters to his sister, brother, and Eugene Boch. 

The original Café Terrace, now called Café Van Gogh, still exists at Place du Forum in Arles, serving as a gathering place for Van Gogh enthusiasts. 

The painting itself can be found at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands. 

This painting marked the beginning of Van Gogh’s series featuring starry backgrounds, inspired by his newfound interest in religion.

Last Judgment – Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum

Artist: Michelangelo

Estimated Year: 1535–1541

Where to see it: Sistine Chapel in Vatican City

The Last Judgment is a monumental masterpiece depicting the final divine judgment of humanity, a theme widely explored in Christian art. 

One of the most renowned depictions is Michelangelo’s Last Judgment, a fresco painted on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. 

Created between 1536 and 1541, this work showcases Michelangelo’s exceptional skill and creativity.

The Last Judgment portrays Christ as the central figure, surrounded by angels, saints, and the souls of the departed. 

To view the original painting of Last Judgment by Michelangelo, visit the Sistine Chapel within Vatican City. 

The Sistine Chapel attracts millions of visitors each year who come to witness the breathtaking frescoes, including this powerful depiction of the Last Judgment.

Great Wave – The MET, New York

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai

Year: 1830–32

Where to see it: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hokusai’s The Great Wave of Kanagawa, also known as The Great Wave or The Wave, stands as one of the most renowned works by the Japanese master. 

It’s part of a series of 36 prints featuring Mount Fuji. 

Hokusai cleverly used perspective to give a strong sense of depth, making Mount Fuji seem small against the towering wave. 

He’s known for using indigo and Prussian blue to create his landscapes. 

In this piece, Hokusai strategically positioned the elements to frame Mount Fuji, with the curve of the wave leading the viewer’s gaze toward the mountain’s peak. 

This woodcut is found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Featured Image: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

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