Nearly as expected, Pablo Picasso’s ‘Golden Muse’ has been sold for £28.6 million ($45 million) at an Impressionist and Modern Art auction at Sotheby’s London on February 5. The estimated price was $56.2 million. Despite this, one of Picasso’s most iconic portraits, originally created on 30th October 1932, devoted to his lover Marie-Therese Walter was the star lot of the evening.
This Picasso’s colourful and curvaceous monumental depiction of Marie-Thérèse Walter, Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Women sitting by a window) was sold at a crowded salesroom to an anonymous telephone buyer.
“We are delighted that this stunning and monumental portrait, which is part of the defining series that introduced his ‘golden muse’ to the public eye, fetched such a strong price,” Helena Newman, an art specialist for Sotheby’s said. “This particular portrait is a striking and notably modern-looking work from one of the artist’s most celebrated periods.”
She was pleased with the sale. “We were delighted with the result of the beautiful painting by Pablo Picasso of Marie-Therese from 1932. It sold 28.6 million pounds which is 45 million dollars tonight. It was the highest price of the auction tonight and a great result for such a beautiful painting of Picasso’s golden muse”, she said.
Perhaps the story behind the expensive portrait encouraged the bidding block prices to climb. The story of Picasso’s first encounter with Marie-Therese, in 1927, when she was seventeen years old, and their subsequent love affair, is among the most compelling in 20th century art history. Picasso’s young lover Marie-Therese became a primary emblem of love, sex and desire in 20th century art. At first, her presence in Picasso’s works was veiled or coded as the artist was at the time married to Olga Kholklova, but when portraits of Marie-Therese hung, for the first time, alongside Cubist and Surrealist works in the major Picasso retrospective of 1932 at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris and at the Kunsthaus in Zurich, Picasso’s secret came out. Upon seeing Picasso’s numerous references to a specific face that was clearly not her own, Olga Khokhlova was suddenly alerted to the presence of a new woman in her husband’s life.
This sale was just the first of a string of auctions held in London this month including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and small auction houses. Despite poor economic conditions, the prices of high end art have soared in recent years, as collectors in Russia, China, and the Middle East join more established patrons in Europe and the U.S.