Picasso’s 1932 painting of his muse Marie-Therese Walter was offered for special sale as part of Emily Fisher Landau’s collection. “Woman with Watch on her wrist,” is one of Pablo Picasso’s greatest creations, brought in $139.3 million at an auction on Wednesday night from Sotheby’s in New York City. This is the artist’s second-highest price till date.
It took only a few minutes of telephone bidding in a cramped room at the storied auction house to sell the 1932 painting that featured the French painter Marie-Therese Walter is one of the Spanish artist’s muses and companions.
Sotheby’s estimates that “Femme a la montre” was worth over $120 million before it was put up for auction.
Emily Fisher Landau, a patron of the arts in New York, passed away this year at the age of 102, and her collection was part of the house’s special sale this week.
Regarding the Picasso canvas hanging in Landau’s living room, Julian Dawes, head of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department, described it as “a masterpiece by every measure.”
“Painted in the year 1932, Pablo Picasso’s ‘annus mirabilis’ is filled with joy and enthusiastic abandon, yet at the exact same time it is completely considered and determined,” he stated.
Regarded as Picasso’s “golden muse,” Walter is featured in another of his pieces, “Femme endormie,” or “Sleeping Woman,” which is slated to fetch $25–$35 million at Christie’s on Thursday.
She also starred in “Woman Sitting Near a Window,” or “Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese),” which brought $103.4 million at auction in 2021.
When Walter first met Picasso in Paris in 1927, the Spanish painter was only 17 years old and still married to Olga Khokhlova, a Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer. The daughter of the couple passed away a year ago. In 2010, a 1932 Picasso was sold for $106 million.
“The Women of Algiers (Version O),” an oil painting by the artist from 1955, set a record when it sold for $179.4 million. It also set a record for the highest-ever auction sale of a piece of art when it was put up for bid at Christie’s New York in 2015. It was overthrown in November 2017 by the $450 million sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which still stands as the record.
Picasso is still regarded as one of the most important artists of the modern era, fifty years after passing away in 1973 at the age of ninety-one.
However, in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, he has been accused of violently controlling the women who inspired his art and shared his life, which has damaged his reputation.
Landau’s collection, which also includes pieces by Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol, has already brought in $406 million for Sotheby’s.
The 93-year-old Johns’ “Flags” brought $41 million, while painter and photographer Ed Ruscha’s “Securing the Last Letter (Boss)” brought $39.4 million.
According to Kelsey Reed Leonard, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art sales, auction houses are benefiting from a robust market for art and luxury goods, driven by China and showing no signs of slowing down.
The two industry titans, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, will be moving a lot of expensive lots in the autumn sales against a backdrop of the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as well as global inflation. However, they might still struggle to surpass last year’s record-breaking $16 billion in total sales.