A 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso titled Femme à la montre from the collection of the late New York philanthropist Emily Fisher Landau, sold on Wednesday night at Sotheby’s during a New York evening sale for $139 million with fees. It marks the second highest price achieved by a work by Picasso at auction.
Offered as the tenth lot in the anticipated sale, Sotheby’s auctioneer Olivier Barker opened the bidding at $100 million, with several bids bringing the hammer price for the work to $121 million. The work eventually went to a bidder on the phone with Brooke Lampley, Head of Sotheby’s Global Fine Art division. Ahead of the sale, the painting was offered with an estimate upon request of $120 million.
A depiction of Picasso’s young muse through much of the 1930s, Marie-Thérèse Walter, the piece has been referred to as “a “definitive” work in Western art history, according to Sotheby’s specialists.
Picasso’s paintings of Walter often fetch the highest prices for the artist’s at auction. Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, which was painted the same year, sold for $106.5 million at Christies in May 2010, well above its $70 million estimate. Picasso’s previous record at auction was also made a Christie’s May 2015, when Version ‘O’(1955) sold for $179.4 million, reportedly to the Qatari royal Al Thani family.
The Fisher Landau painting has changed hands a precious few times since Picasso laid paint to canvas. Emily Fisher Landau, a longtime Whitney trustee and storied New York art collector bought the work from Pace Gallery in 1968. Pace acquired Femme à la montre from Galerie Beyeler in Basel, who bought the work from Picasso, just two year prior, according to the provenance published by Sotheby’s. Fisher Landau died earlier this year, aged 102.