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2 Picasso works, 1 Matisse sell at auction

A Christie's employee inspects a work titled "Tete de Femme" by Pablo Picasso, which is among works to be auctioned.
A Christie's employee inspects a work titled "Tete de Femme" by Pablo Picasso, which is among works to be auctioned.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "Jacqueline" is a portrait of Picasso's second wife; sold for nearly $13 million
  • The "Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale" was in London, England, Tuesday
  • Picasso's portrait of his second wife, Jacqueline, had never been offered at auction
  • The sale of modern and impressionist art also includes works by Renoir
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London, England (CNN) -- Two paintings by Pablo Picasso and a third by Henri Matisse were among works auctioned off Tuesday at Christie's, including "Jacqueline," a Picasso not seen publicly since 1967.

The 1963 work is a portrait of Picasso's second wife, whom he married in 1961, Christie's said. The painting -- "Tete de femme" is its French name -- sold for 8.1 million pounds (nearly $13 million), far above the pre-sale estimate of 3 million to 4 million pounds ($4.79 million to $6.38 million).

"Jacqueline became a regular model for the artist who had by this time become internationally famous," according to the auction house. "She was an instrumental figure in protecting him from the increasing demands of his fame and reputation."

The woman had a very short neck, Christie's said, "and it is said that Picasso would often humorously exaggerate its size in his portraits."

The couple lived at Notre-Dame-de-Vie, a large villa near Mougins, France, and Jacqueline "became the most important of all his muses and models," the auction house said.

The painting has never been offered at auction, and has been in the same collection since 1981.

Also offered in the auction, called the "Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale," is "Homme Assis sur une Chaise," a Picasso portrait painted in 1956, soon after he had moved from Paris, France, to La Californie, a villa overlooking Cannes in the south of France.

"Settled at his new home, it did not take long for the proximity of the sea to have an influence on Picasso's work, and the present portrait shows a subject with traditional fisherman's shirt and with a fisherman's rugged features," according to Christie's description.

The painting was expected to fetch between 3.5 million and 5.5 million pounds ($5.59 million to $8.78 million), according to the auction house, but ultimately sold for 6 million pounds ($9.7 million).

"Impressionist and modern art has continued to attract collectors over the last 18 months, and it has proved to be a robust and stable category of art," Giovanna Bertazzoni, director and head of impressionist and modern art for Christie's London, said in a statement. "We saw a consistent demand throughout 2009, coupled with a significant drop in the levels of supply; however, during the last six months of 2009, there has been a noticeable uptake with a continuing growth in confidence from consignors."

Also offered was "Nu Aux Jambes Croisees," a 1936 work by Matisse. The painting is offered at auction for the first time and has been in the same Swiss collection since 1963. And "Mademoiselle Grimprel au Ruban Rouge," an 1880 portrait by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, portrays Helene Grimprel, granddaughter of Armand Grimprel, a wealthy banker who became a great patron of the arts, Christie's said.

The Matisse sold for to 3.7 million pounds ($6 million), while the Renoir is expected to bring up to 3 million pounds ($4.9 million).

Overall, Christie's said that four of the works offered Tuesday night went for more than 5 million pounds ($7.99 million) and 21 others topped 1 million pounds ($1.6 million). The total proceeds were 76.8 million pounds ($122.1 million).

Immediately following the impressionist and modern art auction will be "The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale," featuring seven works by Rene Magritte, Christie's said.

 
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