Norman Rockwell painting 'Saying Grace' brings record $46 million at auction

Story highlights

  • "Saying Grace" first appeared on a Thanksgiving issue of The Saturday Evening Post
  • It shows an elderly woman and a small boy praying in a crowded restaurant
  • It sells at auction for $46 million -- a record for the late artist Norman Rockwell's work
  • Sotheby's says it's also a record price for a single American painting

Norman Rockwell's painting "Saying Grace" sold for $46 million -- a record for works by the late artist and for a single American painting -- Wednesday at Sotheby's American Art auction.

Rockwell is remembered most as the illustrator of The Saturday Evening Post, where he captured Americans' day-to-day lives.

"We are thrilled -- it's a really great moment for American art and for Rockwell," Elizabeth Goldberg, head of the American Art Department at Sotheby's, said.

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"Saying Grace," which features a boy praying with an elderly woman in a crowded restaurant, was originally estimated to go for $20 million before the auction. The selling price nearly tripled Rockwell's previous auction record, "Breaking Home Ties" which sold for $15.4 million in 2006, according to Sotheby's.

Seven of Rockwell's paintings sold Wednesday came from the family of Kenneth J. Stuart Sr. -- a longtime friend of the artist, and art editor at The Saturday Evening Post -- and nearly totaled $60 million, according to Sotheby's.

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    The other top two Rockwell sales were "The Gossips," which had a pre-sale estimate of $6 million to $9 million and sold for a little under $8.5 million, and "Walking to Church," which had a pre-sale estimate of $3 million to $5 million and sold for a little over $3.2 million.

    "Saying Grace" originally appeared on the Thanksgiving issue cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1951. The painting hung in Stuart office and later on was transferred to the family dining room, according to Sotheby's catalog.

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