Picasso portrait of lover as a sea creature sells for $67.5M in New York auction

A painting by Pablo Picasso portraying his former lover Marie-Thérèse Walter as a sea creature with tentacles sold for just over $67.5 million in an auction on Tuesday.

“Femme nue couchée,” or “Naked woman reclining,” went up for auction in a Sotheby’s sale in New York, selling for $7.5 million more than the at least $60 million it was expected to fetch, according to Reuters.

In the portrait, Walter is depicted as a tentacled sea creature in a reclining position, with her head tilted back. According to Sotheby’s, Walter’s love of swimming partly inspired the nautical theme of the portrait.

“Femme nue couchée is a tour de force of Picasso’s famed 1932 artistic production,” Sotheby’s said in a description of the work.

The portrait is regarded as one of Picasso’s “most monumental and uninhibited portrayals” of his muse, Walter, the auction house said. Tuesday was the first instance of the painting going up for auction, it said.

Detailing the portrait’s provenance, the auction house said the painting had been in possession of the artist’s estate, later going on to a private collection before being acquired by the seller in May 2008 through the Gagosian Gallery, which is headquartered in New York City.

It was purchased on Tuesday by Amy Cappellazzo, the former head of Sotheby’s global fine art division, who left the auction house last year, Reuters reported.

Picasso had first met Walter in 1927 after spotting her in the streets of Paris, according to Sotheby’s. She was 17 years old at the time, while he was 45.

Eventually, the artist began an affair with his muse, while still married to his first wife, ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, with whom he had his first son, Paulo.

Femme nue couchée was one of many paintings inspired by Walter, who eventually became the mother of his second child, Maya. Their relationship eventually ended after Picasso found his next muse, artist Dora Maar.

Picasso’s portraits of Walter have continued to be sought after, with “Femme assise près d’une fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” selling for $103.41 million last year.

Reuters contributed.

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