This is a big week for auctions. What else can you say when you have a Picasso and a Gauguin going under the hammer in the same city in the same week? Art collectors have certainly been following the auction scene in London over the past few days. Many have had eyes only for the Picasso that sold for £25.2 million at Sotheby’s on 8 February. The masterpiece in question is ‘La Lecture‘, a portrait of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Therese Walter.
There is a romantic story about how the pair met. Picasso apparently fell for Walter outside a Metro station in Paris in 1927. Walter was just 17 when the artist took her arm and promised, “You and I are going to do great things together!” The middle-aged Picasso was very much married at the time. Yet, Walter went along with it, becoming not just his mistress, but also his muse. In 1932, Pablo Picasso painted ‘La Lecture’. But it was hardly the only portrait of his muse. Also in 1932, he painted ‘Nude, Green Leaves and Bust’ – a painting that was sold for a record price of £66 million at Christie’s, NYC last year.
According to Sotheby’s, there were at least seven bidders from across the world, but the winning bidder remained anonymous. However, the bidding war started at a relatively low £9 million. The painting was expected to sell between £12 and £18 million prior to the sale. It crossed the pre-sale estimates by a wide margin. But then, Picassos generally do.