Modigliani Masterpiece Realises £26.9m At Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Sale

Amedeo Modigliani’s portrait of his lover Jeanne Hebuterne was the top selling lot at Christie’s evening Impressionist and Modern sale in London on Wednesday reaching a staggering £26.9 million ($42.3 million, 31.2 million euros), Christie’s said. The final price for the 1919 portrait, “Jeanne Hebuterne wearing a hat” was above the pre-sale estimate of between £16 million and £22 million. One of the acclaimed elegant and lyrical portraits that the artist created of his muse and lover, this work has exceptional provenance having passed through the hands of several important dealers and collectors, beginning with Léopold Zborowski; it subsequently hung in the bedroom in dealer Paul Guillaume’s apartment and was included in a 1929 exhibition of his collection. It was later acquired by the Belgian collector Henri Belien, who owned a number of works by Modigliani and other artists of the time. It is a tribute to the quality of this painting that it was included in the small posthumous retrospective of Modigliani’s works held at the XIII Biennale in Venice in 1922, the first such show to take place in his home country. Modigliani created relatively few paintings during his short life – during which he was increasingly accepted as a pioneer in the world of modern art – and, in comparison with those of his counterparts, his works rarely come to the market.
In total, 32 works of art sold for over £1 million / 42 for over $1 million, and five artist records were set: led by Berthe Morisot’s portrait which set a new record price for a female artist at auction; a record for a sculpture by René Magritte; and records for a work by Alberto Magnelli, Kay Sage and Óscar Domínguez. The Itotal for the mpressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale and the auction of The Art of the Surreal realised £136,462,100/ $213,426,725/ €157,340,801 and selling 89% by lot and 94% by value. The auctions had a combined pre-sale estimate of £89.8 million to £132.8 million. 

Jay Vincze, International Director and Head of The Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, Christie’s London: “We were very pleased with the strength and depth of bidding tonight which drove this evening’s auction to achieve both the highest total for a February evening sale at Christie’s London, and our highest sell through rate for an evening sale in this category in London. The global teamwork of our Impressionist and Modern team, coupled with the international nature of buyers participating in tonight’s sale, ensured that the auction drew interest and bidding from around the world. We were very pleased to achieve five new record prices at auction including for Berthe Morisot, whose portrait set an auction record for a work of art by a female artist sold at auction.”

Olivier Camu, Deputy Chairman, Impressionist and Modern Art, Christie’s: “Having held the inaugural standalone Dada and Surrealism sale in 1989 and established the first annual Art of the Surreal Sale in 2001, we are very proud that this pioneering movement of 20th century art now commands truly international attention, with our February sales eagerly awaited by collectors around the globe and across other collecting fields from Old Masters through to Contemporary art. This sale was the largest and strongest offering of Surrealist art ever offered at auction and the volume of bids reflected the enthusiasm for this sale format which is encouraging for the market and greatly rewarding for Christie’s. All 9 of the works by Magritte sold, with a new record set for a sculpture by the artist, beating the previous record set at Christie’s in 2009; the price for this work and Miró’s sculpture, which almost equalled the current record, highlights the strength of demand for sculptures in the field of Impressionist and Modern Art.”

On 5 February a painting of Pablo Picasso’s muse Marie-Therese Walter, “Femme assise pres d’une fenetre” sold for £28.6 million at Sotheby’s. Both auctions have shown healthy results, proving once again the buoyancy of the Art Market in difficult economic times.

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