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The Picasso portrait of his lover Marie-Thérèse Walter will go on sale for the first time

Written by Toyin Owoseje, CNN

Pablo Picasso’s “Woman Naked Lying Down,” a portrait of his lover and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, could sell for more than $60 million at its first auction next month.

The work, painted in April 1932, could become one of Walter’s most valuable portraits ever to come to auction when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in New York on May 17.

According to the auction house, the rare portrait dates from one of the most prolific years of the artist’s career and depicts Walter as a sea creature, with gray, languid limbs and a woman’s face in profile.

Picasso was a pioneer “in the history of the nude figure with his depiction of her reclining in a highly abstract space, highlighting her biomorphic figure with touches of fertility, sexuality and grace,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.

“Nude woman reclining”, by Pablo Picasso Credit: Courtesy of Sotheby’s

Helena Newman, global head of impressionist and modern art at the auctioneer, described “Reclining Naked Woman” as a “revolutionary and extraordinarily sensual work”.

Picasso first met Walter in Paris in 1927 when she was 17 and he was still married to his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, a Russian-Ukrainian dancer. Walter would become the inspiration for some of his most sought after canvases, drawings and sculptures.

Brooke Lampley, President and Head of Worldwide Fine Art Sales at Sotheby’s, added that the work is “a radical departure from tradition, this striking painting is at the same time a deeply lyrical ode to the unconditional desire to the artist for Marie-Thérèse; with her infinitely flexible, fin-like limbs, the portrait continues to enchant as it perfectly captures Picasso’s muse as the ultimate expression of his genius.”

Sotheby’s said the anonymous seller acquired “Reclining Nude Woman” directly from Picasso’s descendants in 2006 after the large-scale painting had been held in the artist’s estate for decades.

Last year, Christie’s New York sold Picasso’s “Woman Seated by a Window (Marie-Thérèse)” for $103.41 million, against an initial estimate of $55 million.
In 2010, the artist’s “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” sold to an unidentified telephone bidder at Christie’s New York for over $106 million.

Top image: The late artist Pablo Picasso in 1971.

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