modigliani record A calm bidding despite the record

The race is on. It’s high season and the auction houses are all hoping for record-breaking sales to secure fall’s commissions as well as to generate some free PR. Following a calm auction with only one bid, Amadeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) sold for 157.2 million dollars at Sotheby’s.

The fourth most expensive painting in auction history
Modigliani’s artwork is one of the two most anticipated masterpieces up for auction this spring. The other one was Picasso’s Fillette à la corbeille fleurie painted in 1905 which previously belonged in Rockerfeller’s amazing collection. It sold for 115.2 million dollars at Christie’s in May this year.

picasso price auction Pablo Picasso, Fillette à la corbeille fleurie. Image: Christie’s

While the sale of the Picasso painting didn’t live up to expectations, the Modigliani sale was everything but a disappointment.

Nudity sells - no news there - and this sale makes the Modigliani painting the fourth most expensive painting ever sold at an auction, and the second most expensive nude.

It doesn’t surpass the artist’s earlier record, but it’s impressive to see how Modigliani’s work now can compete with Picasso’s. The current record holder among Modigliani’s work is another nude sold by Christie’s in 2015 for 179.4 million dollars.

most expensive painting The record-holding Modigliani

Record for Sotheby’s
The sale is a well-needed record for Sotheby’s. Last year, the prestigious auction house was surpassed when the equally prestigious competitor Christie’s made the sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi for 450,312,500 dollars, making it the most valuable painting ever sold. But it’s safe to say that the Modigliani sale puts Sotheby’s back in the running.

A decent revenue
It hasn’t been long since the last time the painting, thought to be one of the artist’s greater works, was for sale. In 2003 Christie’s sold the nude portrait for 26.9 million dollars, only a seventh of Sothebys record breaking revenue.

modigliani painter The artist Amadeo Modigliani

A scandalous beginning
While today widely praised and admired, the art of Amadeo Modigliani wasn’t so well received when first shown in 1917. Actually it went so far that the Paris police shut the gallery down.

Despite this scandalous beginning, the art dealer Lépold Zborowski saw the potential in the young artist and paid Modigliani a couple of francs for the painting. He later sold it to the legendary art collector Jonas Netter.

Today, most of the 35 nude art works that was shown in Paris in 1917 hang at some of the most influential museums in the world.