Amedeo Modigliani's largest work and his greatest nude has become the most valuable artwork ever sold at Sothebys—selling for $157 million in the May 14 Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale. Nu couché was acquired by its previous owner, Irish billionaire John Magnier, at auction in 2003 for $26.9 million.
The sale total was $318.3 million, including Pablo Picasso's "Le Repos" for $36.9 million, Georgia O'Keeffe's "Lake George with White Birch" for $11.29 million, and Mary Cassatt's "A Goodnight Hug" for $4.5 million.
Deaccessioned from the Berkshire Museum, Henry Moore's "Three Seated Women" brought $300,000 and Francis Picabia's "Force Comique" fetched $1.19 million.
In 2014 Modigliani's 1911–12 sculpture Tête achieved $70.7 million at Sotheby's New York, which was the second highest price for the artist at auction prior to this evening's sale. Another Modigliani nude sold for an artist auction record of $170.4 million in 2015 at Christie’s.
Painted a century ago, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)
is the greatest work from the iconic series in which Amedeo Modigliani
reinvented the nude for the Modern era. Upon their debut exhibition in 1917, these striking and sensual images quite literally stopped traffic and prompted the police to close the show. Today, the series is recognized as one of the seminal achievements in Modern painting. The shock and awe that Modigliani’s nudes continue to elicit was evident during Tate Modern’s
recent celebrated retrospective of the artist’s work that included Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)
as its cover star.
In addition to being the finest example from the series, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is distinguished further as the largest painting of Modigliani’s entire oeuvre – measuring nearly 58 inches (147 centimeters) across – and the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas. The majority of the 22 reclining nudes from the series are found in museums