On Monday night, Italian artist, Amedeo Modigliani’s nude painting became the fourth most expensive work of art sold at auction, as it was reportedly sold for $157.2m (N56.7bn) at a New York auction.
Modigliani follows Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso as the third highest-selling artist at auction. Monday’s sale however failed to eclipse the $170.4 million paid for another Modigliani nude at Christie’s in 2015.
Painted a century ago, Modigliani’s nude painting masterpiece “Nu couche (sur le cote gauche)” fetched the highest price in Sotheby’s history and was the star single lot in the May art auction season in New York. Nearly 58 inches (147 centimeters) wide, the picture was the cover star of a recent retrospective at the Tate Modern gallery in London.
Simon Shaw, co-head of impressionist and modern art at Sotheby’s, said before the sale that the painting was rooted in tradition but also reflected the changing status of women during World War One.
He said: “This is a nude of a very self-possessed, sexually confident woman who is not looking out from a distance.
“She’s absolutely meeting our gaze.”
Also included in the auction were works by Picasso, Monet, Joan Miro and Edvard Munch. The previous owner, based in the US, had bought the Modigliani in 2003 for $26.9m (£19.8m) and was probably encouraged after another reclining nude from the series sold at auction for $170.4m (£125.6m) in 2015.
Italian-born Modigliani painted 22 reclining nudes and 13 seated nudes between 1916 and 1919, most of them in 1917. Many were shown at the gallery of Parisian dealer Berthe Weill that year, with a number of the nudes hung in the window or, at least, visible through the glass.
The show was closed, with Modigliani’s dealer Leopold Zborowski having sold just two drawings at 30 francs each. He is, however, listed as the first owner of the nude painting sold in New York on Monday. As for Modigliani, the 1917 exhibition was his first and only solo exhibition. He died three years later.