A rare Picasso painting on auction for the first time made its debut in Hong Kong at the start of a global tour on Tuesday (Jan 30) and is expected to fetch US$50 million, auction house Sotheby’s said.
The painting – Femme au beret et a la robe quadrillee (Marie-Therese Walter) – is a colourful and angular depiction of Picasso’s French lover with a dark silhouette looming behind her face.
“Of all of the artist’s styles and decades, this is the one that most epitomises the legacy of Picasso as a portraitist of women,” said Thomas Bompard of the Impressionist and Modern Art department at Sotheby’s in London.
Walter began her relationship with Picasso as his mistress and muse when she was 17 and committed suicide in 1977, four years after his death.
Picasso painted the portrait a few months after his masterpiece Guernica was conceived in 1937 in the depths of Spain’s devastating civil war.
The portrait is said to explore Picasso’s evolving relationship with Walter as French artist Dora Maar emerged as his new lover, according to Sotheby’s.
The piece is making its first stop in Hong Kong and will be on public display in the city until Friday before travelling to Taipei, New York and London.
It will go under the hammer on Feb 28 as part of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale in London.