A Picasso painting valued at €1m (£840,000) was sold to a 25-year-old American for the mere price of a €100 raffle ticket, at a charity auction held to save a Unesco World Heritage Site.
L’Homme au Gibus (Man with Opera Hat) was being sold by tombola at the Sotheby’s auction house in Paris to aid the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre in southern Lebanon, which was severely damaged during the Lebanese civil war of the ’70s and ’80s.
Jeffrey Gonano said he had been looking for a picture to hang on his livingroom wall when he read a news article about the raffle: “I was looking for art and I thought I might as well.”
But despite the value of his new acquisition, Mr Gonano said he would be keeping it – for the time being at least.
It is believed to be the first time that a work has been sold off in this way. A maximum 50,000 tickets, sold for €100 each, have been available online since April for a chance to win the work of art, a gouache on paper measuring 30.5cm by 24cm.
It was produced by the Spanish artist in 1914, and is clearly signed “Pablo Picasso” in the upper right-hand corner.
Presented for sale by a “very generous donor,” who according to the organisers bought the work at a New York gallery, the work has been authenticated by the artist’s daughter Maya Widmaier-Picasso, together with his son Claude Ruiz-Picasso and the French model Marie-Thérèse Walter.
The tombola auction was the idea of Olivier Picasso, the artist’s grandson, as an alternative to the formality of “boring” fund-raising gala dinners.
The gouache was “a very important drawing because it first stands witness to the Cubist work carried out by my grandfather,” he said.
His grandfather, who died in 1973, “would have been amused to be involved in such an operation,” he added.
“I think that Pablo Picasso was a pioneer, pioneer in his personal life, in his sentimental life, in his creation.”
Mr Picasso, 52, who wrote a biography of the artist and acts as art consultant to the Picasso family foundation, said the estate was waiving its usual fees for the sale of his grandfather’s art.
The International Association to Save Tyre charity is hoping to raise $5m.
A spokeswoman said: “We are very excited. Who can get a Picasso usually? Or a piece of art? Not a lot of people. So we have seen a lot buying three, four and five tickets.”
She added that the money would go to creating an institute for Phoenician studies and creating a handicraft village to provide employment for the disabled.