Picasso’s 1932 painting of his young mistress Marie-Therese Walter fetched $41.5 million tonight at Sotheby’s in New York.
Philip Hook, senior specialist at Sotheby’s London, bought it for a client on the phone.
“Nature Morte aux Tulipes” is at once a portrait and a still life, depicting Walter’s sculpted white head on a pedestal next to a bouquet of tulips and some sexually suggestive fruit. It had been estimated to bring $35 million to $50 million.
The work was the top lot by estimate of Sotheby’s evening Impressionist and modern art sale, expected to bring more than $169 million.
The seller had been guaranteed a minimum undisclosed price, provided by Sotheby’s, a third party or a combination thereof, according to the catalog. A third party also provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot, ensuring that the work will sell.
It sold for $28.6 million in 2000 at Christie’s in New York. Picasso’s paintings of Walter have been popular with collectors, surging since his “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” went for $106.5 million at Christie’s in New York in 2010.
Most of the top Marie-Therese paintings that have come up for auction have been dated 1932, the year of Picasso’s big retrospective at Galeries Georges Petit in Paris.