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7 of the world's most interesting art commissions

April 13, 2017

Making a commission is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself or a loved one. Not only are they wildly unique, but they are incredibly personal. It’s no wonder then that artists are always getting tons of strange requests from bizarre comic book fantasies to non-visible art. Below we have compiled a list of seven of the most fascinating commissioned pieces that we could find.


1. Wax Christian Ronaldo commissioned by Christian Ronaldo for Christian Ronaldo

In 2015, soccer (yes, "soccer") superstar Christian Ronaldo commissioned British artist Michael Wade to sculpt a life-sized sculpture of himself. 


After seeing his likeness in waxwork at the Madrid Museum of Wax, Ronaldo decided that he wanted a replica to display in his mansion. 


To make sure it captured his likeness to perfection, Ronaldo reportedly asked his personal hairdresser to trim and style the coif on the £20,000 sculpture. 

2. Preserved Shark by Damien Hirst commissioned by Charles Saatchi


You may know of The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living better known as Damien Hirst’s “Shark, ” but what you may not know is that one of the most famous works of art to come out of the UK in the 1990s was a commissioned piece.

Damien Hirst 1991 artwork photo via GQ 


Commissioned by advertising magnate and renowned art collector Charles Saatchi, Damien was given £50,000 to “do whatever he wanted”. Relatively unknown even though he was part of the up-and-coming Y.B.A. movement (which was heavily supported by Saatchi), Hirst himself commissioned a fisherman to catch a 14-foot tiger shark off the coast of Queensland in Australia.


In 2006, the piece was sold for reportedly $8 million to investor Steven A. Cohen. However, since the piece was slowly decomposing due to improper preservation and according to Hirst, "no longer looked scary", the artist replaced the shark before Cohen took ownership of the piece. 


3. The Faberge Egg commissioned by Tsar Alexander III for his wife



Tsar Alexander III was so impressed with jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé’s craftsmanship in his replica of a 4th-century BC Scythian Bangle, that he declared the House of Fabergé "Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown," and in 1885 commissioned what would be the first in a series of the famous Fabergé eggs as an Easter gift for his wife.


Less ornate than the better-known ones, The First Hen Egg was 64mm by 35mm and made of gold covered in enamel. Inside the egg shell was a golden yolk, and inside that, a hen. Finally, inside the hen was reportedly a diamond and gold crown and ruby pendant. Unfortunately those two items have been lost and no one knows exactly how they looked.


The Tsar’s wife loved it so much, especially the surprise, that Fabergé was commissioned to create a new egg each Easter that would be different than the last. Each egg would also include a special surprise inside.


The House of Fabergé was believed to have created 50 of these eggs, though only 43 still remain in existence. The most recently sold Vacheron Constantine Egg sold in 2014 for a reported £20 million. 


4. The world’s most expensive cake by Debbie Wingham for a wealthy Arab family’s daughter


In 2015, for a girl’s joint birthday and engagement party, British designer Debbie Wingham was commissioned to create the world’s most expensive cake. Costing £48.5 million, the 6-foot long, 450kg cake had 4000 real diamonds embedded into it including a 5.2 carat pink diamond, a 6.4 carat yellow diamond, and fifteen individual 5 carat white diamonds. 

The cake took over 1100 hours for Debbie to create and features a fashion catwalk show depicting some of her personal fashion designs. This required over 120kg of fondant and 60kg modelling chocolate.





5. The most expensive piece of furniture, commissioned by a 19-year old


This one goes back to 1726 when Henry Somerset, the 19-year old 3rd Duke of Belfort, was traveling through Europe and fell in love with the craftsmanship of the Florentine artisans. 

 The young duke commissioned a 12-foot cabinet made from ebony, gilted-bronze, and pieta dura from lapis lazuli, jasper, quartz, and agate. The cabinet took 30 experts 6 years to craft before sending it to the young Duke’s seat, Badminton House, in Gloustershire, England. 


This cabinet twice became the highest paid piece of furniture. It sold at auction in 1990 at £8.58 million ($16 million), and again in 2004 for £19 million ($36 million).


6. The late Michael Jackson’s collection of Portraits of Michael Jackson


Kehinde Wiley "Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson) 


Michael Jackson is best known for his profoundly influential music and artistic genius. However, he is also known for his ever-evolving image and public speculation of his self-image. Perhaps because of this, Michael wanted to commission portraits of himself depicted in a way that he wanted to see himself: as a Peter Pan character, a champion of children, a knight in shining armour, an immortalised statue of David. These depictions aren’t metaphorical rhetoric. These are among the portraits that he had commissioned.


David Nordahl's "The Storyteller"


Working with various artists over the course of nearly two decades, Michael had commissioned sculptures, murals, oil paintings, and even a golf-cart, all with his likeness in fairy-tale fantasies that may have reflected how he wanted to see himself, and maybe even be remembered. 


David Nordahl's "Field of Dreams"


Whatever the reason, the works he commissioned have a sense of frivolity and innocence (or naiveté) to them. They reflect an idealised world where he could be the hero, and nobody could tell him otherwise. 


Celine Lavail's "Peter Pan"


David Nordahl's "Michael"


7. The bet to create the world’s most complex and complicated watch 


In 1925 two world-renowned watch collectors, the immensely wealthy banker Henry Graves Jr. and the still-wealthy-but-less-so automobile manufacturer James Packard, had an unofficial competition to see who could commission the most complicated pocket watch in the world.



Packard, with his engineering background, had commissioned Patek Philippe to create a watch with 10 complications (a complication being a movement on top of the standard hours, minutes, and seconds), including the world’s first sky chart which showed the stars above his Ohio home. 


Graves, meanwhile, approached Patek Philippe in secret and asked him to commission a watch that would have the most complications humanly possible. The resulting watch took 3 years to design and 5 years to produce, and when delivered in 1933, it had a total of 24 complications (including a celestial chart depicting the stars over Henry's New York home). 



Made from 920 individual components, 430 screws, 120 mechanical levers, 110 wheels, and 70 jewels, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication was the most complicated watch in the world and would remain so for the next 50 years. It is still the most complicated watch ever made without computer-aided design.


The watch originally cost $15,000 ($650,000 today) and sold at auction in 1999 for $11 million.



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