A Very Expensive Portrait


Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur (Nude, Green Leaves and Bust), Pablo Picasso, 1932

 
 

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is one of a series of portraits that Pablo Picasso painted of his mistress and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter from 1932. The vibrant blue and lilac canvas is more than 5 feet (1.5 m) tall.

At the time, Picasso was in an exclusive contractual relationship with noted impressionist and post-impressionist French-Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg, who bought the painting direct from his friend. With the increasing tones of an approaching war, in the late 1930s Rosenberg started to distribute works from his 2,000+ piece collection around the world, and used the 1939 New York World’s Fair as the excuse to ship the painting outside France. After the 1940 Nazi invasion of France, on reaching New York via Lisbon in September 1940, Rosenberg opened a new branch of his noted gallery on East 57th street, and put the painting back on display.

From there it was bought by Sidney and Frances Brody in 1951, and was publicly exhibited only once in 1961 to commemorate Picasso’s 80th birthday.

Frances Brody died in November 2009. On May 4, 2010, the painting was sold at Christie’s in New York City, who won the rights to auction the collection against London-based Sotheby’s. The collection as a whole was valued at over US$150 million, while the work was originally expected to earn $80 million at auction.

There were eight bidders at the auction house, while the winning bid was taken via telephone for $95 million. Including the buyer’s premium, the price reached US$106.5 million. When inflation is ignored, the painting broke the record price for an art work sold at auction until it was surpassed by the selling of Edvard Munch‘s The Scream on May 2, 2012 for US$120 million.

 
 

Portrait of Pablo Picasso by Cecil Beaton, 1932

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