Pablo Picasso’s portraits of three different lovers raised £42.2 million ($68.5 million) at Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in London. Top lot on the night was a Femme assise, robe bleue, depiction of Dora Maar, who became Picasso’s lover and muse at the expense of Marie-Therese Walter. The 1939 painting, which had been unseen in public since 1967, sold for £18 million ($29.1 million), several times the pre-sale estimate of £4-8 million.
It had been acquired by the seller’s family from Beyeler in about 1968. The new buyer was the Swiss-based Greek collector Dimitri Mavrommatis, bidding by telephone to Thomas Seydoux, Christie’s international head of Impressionist and modern art, the auction house said after the sale.
The second highest price paid on the night was for Jeune fille endormie, a 1935 portrait of Walter that went under the hammer for £13.5 million ($21.9 million). The portrait of the artist’s lover, Marie-Therese Walter, valued between £9 – £12 million, was given to the Australian institution by a US-based anonymous donor on the condition it was sold and the proceeds would go to the University of Sydney to fund scientific research.
In third place was work from 1946, Buste de Francoise, which fetched £10.7 million ($17.3 million). Francoise Gilot was an artist and author who became Picasso’s lover in the 1940s and with whom he had two of his children, Christie’s said.
Picasso is the world’s most heavily traded modern artist at auction. Wealthy investment-conscious collectors looking for a hedge against recession are attached to his trophy works, particularly when they depict his lovers. The 1932 painting of Marie-Therese Walter, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust fetched $106.5 million, the most for any artwork at auction, at Christie’s, New York, in May 2010.
Christie’s International’s three-hour auction of modern and Impressionist art totaled £140 million ($224 million), including 40 lots from the estate of the Swiss art dealer Ernst Beyeler, who died last year. The Basel-based gallerist’s material contributed £44.7 million ($71.6 million) with only one piece failing to sell, a Claude Monet water-lily painting.