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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Picasso painting sells for $139 million, most valuable art auctioned this year

The painting depicts one of the Spanish artist's lovers and muses — French painter Marie-Therese Walter —  seated in a throne-like chair against a blue background.

Pablo Picasso’s 1932 painting “Woman with a Watch ” has been sold for $139.3 million (€129,9 million) at an auction by Sotheby’s in New York, the second-highest price ever achieved for the painter’s work.

An anonymous buyer outbid two others to secure the masterpiece on Wednesday

The painting depicts one of the Spanish artist’s lovers and muses — French painter Marie-Therese Walter —  seated in a throne-like chair against a blue background.

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Walter met Picasso in Paris in 1927 at the age of 17, when he was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova. Their passionate affair inspired Picasso to create numerous portraits of Walter.

The painting is a part of a special sale showcasing an estimated $400 million collection of artworks owned by art patron Emily Fisher Landau who died this year.

The most-expensive Picasso painting to sell at auction,  “Les femmes d’Alger” fetched $179.3 million, including a buyer’s premium, at Christie’s in 2015.

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Picasso remains one of the most influential artists of the modern world.

The painting, whose title translates to “Woman with a Watch,” depicts Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso’s mistress, in a regal chair set against a blue backdrop. The watch in the title is a recurring element in Picasso’s depictions of his wife, the Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova.

Walter was just 17 when she began a clandestine affair with the then 45-year-old Picasso in Paris. Despite Picasso’s marriage to Khokhlova, Walter inspired a series of his artworks, including the 1932 “Femme nue couchée,” which itself sold for $67.5 million at a 2022 auction.

1932 was a critical year for Picasso, who, at the age of 50, was already renowned but still driven to prove his detractors wrong. They had cast doubt on whether his best days were behind him, a sentiment refuted by institutions like the Tate Modern museum.

Fisher Landau had acquired the painting in 1968 from the Pace Gallery in New York and had it displayed in her Manhattan apartment, as noted by Sotheby’s.
The artwork was ultimately purchased by an anonymous buyer who outbid two others to secure the painting.