A small Lucian Freud painting described as an "indisputable masterpiece" sold for more than £3 million when it went under the hammer at auction.
Boy's Head, measuring just 21.6cm by 15.9cm, was bought by an anonymous bidder for £3,177,250.
But the work - which depicts Charlie Lumley, Freud's neighbour and one of his most recognisable subjects - did not meet pre-sale estimates, which had suggested it could go for as much as £4 million.
The work, painted in 1952, shows the subject's head supported by his hand.
It led a Sotheby's sales evening last night which saw one private collection, entitled Italian Identity, go for a combined total of £39,456,950, in an auction of 20th-century Italian art.
This was in line with pre-sale estimates which suggested the works could reach between £34,982,000 and £48,338,000.
The private collection included Alberto Burri's Combustione Legno of 1957, which set a new record for the artist at auction.
The work, which was estimated before the sale to fetch between £800,000 and £1,200,000, drew interest from more than five bidders and finally sold for the sum of £3,177,250.
Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of Contemporary Art Europe at the auction house, said last night: "We were able to bring to market this evening this important private collection which offered works of breath-taking scope and quality as well as freshness to the market.
"Collectors responded with enthusiasm, giving us the highest total achieved this evening for any sale of 20th-century Italian art ever staged.
"Highlights of our sale of contemporary art included an indisputable masterpiece by Lucian Freud, the great legend of the London School."
Burri was one of six artists to set new records at auction. The others were Leon Kossoff, Wim Delvoye, Francesco Lo Savio, Michelangelo Pistoletto and Giuseppe Penone, a Sotheby's spokesman said.
All prices included buyer's premium.
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