Picasso nude sells for world record $106m

A Picasso nude once marvelled at by Hollywood stars as they partied in the home of its millionaire owner but which was only ever shown once in public in the past 50 years has set a new record price for a work of art sold at auction.

The 1932 painting of the great Spanish artist's muse and mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, was sold for $106.5m (£70.3m) at Christie's in New York after frantic bidding by more than half a dozen would-be buyers.

The battle by monied collectors to obtain the vivid work, entitled Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, was interpreted as evidence that the super-rich, buoyed by recent strong performances on the world's stock markets, are returning to auction rooms to spend their surplus cash on the most covetable masterpieces.

With a "modest" pre-sale estimate of between $70m and $90m, the price of the oil painting soon surpassed expectations and it took nine minutes of bidding between eight clients before the decisive offer of $95m was made by an anonymous telephone buyer.

Once the Christie's commission was added, the final price was $106.5m – surpassing the previous record of $104.3m for a Giacometti sculpture set at Sotheby's in London three months ago. The selling price means the Picasso cost £21,537 for every square inch of paint and canvas.

Conor Jordan, head of impressionist and modern art at Christie's, said: "Tonight's spectacular results showed the great confidence in the marketplace and the enthusiasm with which it welcomes top quality works."

Measuring more than 1.5m by 1.2m and completed when the artist was judged to have been at the height of his powers, the Picasso depicts Ms Walter as the Greek nymph Daphne, who was turned into a laurel tree, with the then-married artist hovering over his lover as a shadowy outline.

It was bought in the 1950s by the late Californian art collectors Frances and Sidney Brody, who hung the picture in the living room of their mansion in the Los Angeles hills. The couple turned their home into a salon for Hollywood's glitterati, entertaining friends such as Joan Crawford and Gary Cooper. Walt Disney was a neighbour.

The Picasso was put on public exhibition once, in 1961, to mark the 80th anniversary of the artist's birth.

After the death of Ms Brody last November, the family trust decided to put a collection of 69 art works up for sale, raising a total of $335m last night – the third highest in Christie's history.

The auction house said there had been heavy participation from buyers in Russia, China and the Middle East.

The immortalised mistress

Marie-Thérèse Walter was 17 when she first met Picasso outside the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris. It was January 1927; Picasso was 45 and living with his Russian wife, Olga, and their six-year-old son. The artist struck up a secret relationship with the curvaceous blonde. She became his muse, appearing in several works.

For years she lived close to the Picassos, at one time even living opposite the family in a street just off the Champs Elysées. In 1935 Picasso's wife left him and Marie-Thérèse gave birth to his first daughter, Maya. However, by the following year, Picasso had moved on to a new French mistress, the photographer and artist Dora Maar.

He fondly recalled a cat-fight between the two mistresses in his studio as one of his "choicest memories". Marie-Thérèse hanged herself in 1977, four years after Picasso's death.

Cheryl Roussel

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama


Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year


Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living