A rare Alfa Romeo sports car once owned by Mussolini's mistress will be amongst the highlights of a Paris auction next year.
Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is a 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso. It is one of a series of portraits of Picasso’s mistress and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter.
With a vibrant blue and lilac canvas, the piece measures more than five feet tall. The painting was held in the personal collection of Los Angeles art collectors Sidney and Frances Brody for nearly six decades.
It was sold at auction for $106.5 million, a world record price. Today, the work stands as the world’s six-most valuable painting (price: $106.6 million, inflation adjusted).
The work features philodendron leaves similar to those depicted in his sculpture Woman in the Garden of 1929, which portrays Marie-Thérèse as the nymph Daphne being metamorphosed into a bush. Picasso is understood to have admired the plant for its "overwhelming vitality".
According to biographers, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was painted following an annus mirabilis for Picasso, following his 50th birthday. “In the winter that followed he revolutionised our perception of that most basic subject of western art: the seated woman” wrote John Richardson.
The painting was completed on March 8 1932, during one of the most intensely creative periods of Picasso's career, while preparing for a retrospective exhibition to be held in June 1932 at Galerie Georges Petit in Paris2.
Obscurity and surviving World War Two
Picasso apparently asked his dealer Paul Rosenberg, who lived next door, to hang the work in his own apartment. For this reason, the only evidence of the piece for scholars was Cecil Beaton’s 1933 photograph. As a result, the painting was never requested for inclusion in Picasso retrospectives.
It did however feature in Paul Rosenberg's 1936 show of then-recent works, until the outbreak World War II closed Rosenberg's Paris gallery.
Before escaping to New York, Rosenberg hid his extensive stock and collection in three separate places: a rented house and bank near to Bordeaux, as well as a warehouse at Tours, under the name of a non-Jewish employee. The first two hideaways were looted by the Nazis.
The warehouse, where Nude, Green Leaves and Bust was stored, was left untouched.
Sidney and Frances Brody
After re-opening his Paris gallery Rosenberg sold the painting to the Brodys in 1951, who made it the focal point of their expanding collection for the next six decades.
Thereafter, the painting was only exhibited once in the United States when the Brodys loaned it to a 1961 exhibition Bonne Fête Monsieur Picasso, a retrospective staged in honour of Picasso's 80th birthday that was sponsored by the UCLA Art Council.
Frances Brody died in November 2009. On May 4, 2010, the painting was sold at Christie's in New York City, who won the rights to the sale ahead of Sotheby’s.
Brody’s collection as a whole was valued at over US$150 million, while the work was originally expected to earn $80 million at auction3. There were eight bidders at the auction house, while the winning bid was taken via telephone for $95 million4.
Including the buyer's premium, the price reached US$106.5 million.
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