10 Most Famous Portrait Paintings

Portraits have been around for centuries and are a form of fine art. The purpose of a portrait is to achieve a likeness of the person seated in the painting. The likeness should be accurate and reflect the sitter's actual appearance.

You may be interested in the Mona Lisa by Da Vinci, the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Botticelli, or the Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat by Van Gogh. These paintings have a significant place in history, and they are a perfect example of the art form. But there are many more portraits that are equally famous.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is a half-length portrait that has been described as the archetypal masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance. As one of the most famous works of art in the world, it has also become the most popular and most written about.

The Mona Lisa is a portrait of Lisa Gherardini. Da Vinci is believed to have commissioned the painting to celebrate the birth of her second son, who was born two years later. The name Mona Lisa is an abbreviation for “ma donna” and “La Gioconda” is a variation of her marital surname.

Another intriguing feature of the Mona Lisa is its perspective. The artist created it from aerial view. During the composition, the sitter's seat appears to be in an open loggia. In the background, a vast landscape recedes towards icy mountains. The winding paths give little hint of the sitter's presence, and the sensuous curves of her hair and clothing echo those of the imaginary valleys and rivers. Da Vinci's style is also marked by dramatic contrasts of light and dark.

Learn more about Mona Lisa paintings:

Is Mona Lisa A Real Person?

5 Reasons Why the Mona Lisa Is So Famous

Why is the Mona Lisa So Expensive?

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustav Klimt

The famous portrait painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was completed in 1907. In it, a woman sits in a golden chair in a fitted gold dress. Her dress is decorated with delicate geometric forms and sometimes blends into the background. The woman's face stands out in stark contrast to the gold flow. This work has been described as the embodiment of femininity. Its composition is rich with symbols and influences ranging from Greek to Byzantine.

The name Adele Bloch-Bauer reflects the rich and influential family she came from. Adele was born to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna. Her father, a banker, was also the president of the Orient Railway Company. She had one stillborn daughter, and another child, a boy named Fritz, in early October of 1904. Unfortunately, both of them died within a day of their birth. In spite of these tragic events, Klimt immortalized her in famous portraits.

Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer

The Girl With a Pearl Earring is one of the most famous portrait paintings in history, and its arrival at the Frick Collection in New York is generating unprecedented crowds. Many critics have proposed that the girl in the painting was Vermeer's eldest daughter, Maria. Others have dismissed this idea as an anachronism.

The painter's use of foreign pigments in the Girl with a Pearl Earring is impressive. He used ultramarine blue paint, derived from the lazurite mineral in the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli. In addition to its exquisite color scheme, the earring has also been re-done in 1994. However, some people do not believe that the earring is a pearl, so we can't be too sure.

Self-Portrait with Grey Felt Hat by Van Gogh

Van Gogh painted this self-portrait in winter 1887 when he had lived in Paris for nearly two years. It shows him with a grey felt hat, new wooden teeth, and a cheerful attitude. Van Gogh's technique is based on the Pointillist technique, but he applied it in his own way. The result is a painting with a unique style.

A Van Gogh portrait is usually sold for millions of dollars. This painting by the famous artist is no exception. This masterpiece has an intense presence in the public consciousness. Many of the Van Gogh paintings are part of major collections and fetch tens of millions of dollars in the secondary market. A self-portrait by Van Gogh can enhance any room in your house or office.

Portrait of Madame X by John Singer Sargent

John Singer Sargent created the famous portrait of Madame X. Despite the controversy, it is still one of the most fascinating portraits of all time. Sargent's technical virtuosity shines through in this work, which features delicate details and shadows that add a certain mystery to the subject. This portrait also shows the real Virginie Gautreau, who stands in an updo against a warm brown background. Sargent's composition also features a long nose that leads the viewer's eye out of the painting.

While Madame X's face and clothes are recognizable, the portrait has a somewhat edgy feel. Her hair is in an Ancient Greek style, and her diamond crescent tiara represents the goddess of the moon, Diana. Her dress features a plunging neckline, which was considered provocative by the time. However, John Singer Sargent repainted the strap to make her dress look more flattering, and eventually removed the painting from the exhibition.

Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck

The Jan van Eyck painting, “An affluent Italian man embraces his wife,” is one of the most famous works of art by this Dutch master. Although the portrait is very small, Jan van Eyck managed to depict three-dimensionality using several points, including the horizon line. The light from the window on the left reveals the torso's length and the shadow under the hat's brim creates a soft, luminous glow. Using multiple points to establish perspective, he also managed to create a realistic look to the portrait.

The enigmatic expressions of the two men in the portrait are also symbolic. Oranges on the far right table might be symbolic of a marriage or matrimonial union, but they don't grow naturally in Burges. The painting also features a convex mirror, reflecting the whole scene back to the viewer. Regardless of the reason for this enigmatic painting, the Arnolfini Portrait is a unique piece of art.

American Gothic by Grant Wood

American Gothic is a genre of painting that focuses on rural life. Its title reflects the hardworking nature of the people depicted in the works. This particular style of painting, however, was met with a backlash in Wood's hometown, Cedar Rapids. Cedar Rapids citizens reacted in anger, arguing that Wood was making a caricature of the rural people of Iowa. However, Wood interpreted the work as a statement on traditional American values and a reassurance during the Great Depression.

While the subject of the work is familiar to Americans, it has also inspired generations of pastiche. Wood, an American artist, reimagined this genre in the 1960s. She chose an old-fashioned setting and adorned her models with old-school elements, such as a cameo brooch and a geranium apron. These details are the basis of a highly stylized interpretation of the American Gothic genre.

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

During the recent exhibition of Vermeer's masterpiece, ‘The Milkmaid,' the Dutch master employed the technique of chiaroscuro to create a remarkable image. This technique combined a still life with the figure to create an impressive image. The artist controlled the edges of the subject and used color and light to emphasize its different qualities. Contrasting textures in the bread, light on the glaze, and the softness of the skin and clothing create a contrasting contrast.

This painting is a perfect example of the Dutch Baroque school of painting. Vermeer painted this painting in around 1657, but the exact date is uncertain. The Milkmaid is a beautiful painting that captures the daily activities of a domestic kitchen maid. The painting is now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and is considered one of the greatest Dutch masters. In addition to being a masterpiece of Dutch art, “The Milkmaid” is a great reminder of the artist's devotion to detail.

Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci

“Lady with an Ermine” by Leonardo da Vinci is one of his four famous portraits of women. This painting is in surprisingly good condition even after 500 years. It is considered the first modern portrait in the world. It is a wonderful example of Leonardo's distinctive style and gives us an intimate view of his subject's mind and personality. The painting is considered one of his finest works.

Leonardo's portrait of the sitter, the ermine and the sitter are framed at an angle of three-quarters to the right. The sitter gazes outward while holding a white ermine. The sitter is seated in a simple blue and red dress that clearly demonstrates her lack of noble status. Her hair is styled in a simple ‘coazone,' creating an elegant silhouette against the black background.

Grande Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

The Grande Odalisque (also known as Une Odalisque or La Grande odalisque) is an oil painting by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, which depicts a sexy odalisque and her concubine. This work represents a break from Neoclassicism and exotic Romanticism. The painting was made in 1814.

When Ingres finished La Grande Odalisque, it was first shown in the Paris Salon in 1819. It drew harsh criticism for its eclecticism and combination of classical and Romantic themes. It was regarded as rebellious and a break from the contemporary vogue. The disproportionate physiognomy and disregard for anatomical realism caused critics to object. Recent studies have confirmed the deliberate distortions of the figure.

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Sebastian Watkins

About the Author: Sebastian Watkins

I am an experienced and passionate CEO of Dolphin Gallery. I specialize in interior design and art, having worked professionally in both fields for over a decade. With my eye for detail and my dedication to excellence, I create beautiful spaces that are both aesthetically pleasing and comfortable.