A Pablo Picasso masterpiece from 1932 has sold for more than $139 million at a Sotheby’s New York auction on Wednesday.
Titled Femme à la Montre (Woman with Watch), the portrait is said to be of Picasso’s secret lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, seen wearing a timepiece, and on a throne-like seat against a blue background. The legendary artist created it during what is dubbed his “year of wonders” while he was gearing up for his first large-scale retrospective in Paris at the age of 50. The watch in its title is also a detail that is seen in an artwork Picasso made of his wife, Russian-Ukrainian ballerina Olga Khokhlova.
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“Picasso is all about passion, but this specific passion [for watches] is one that is not generally known about,” said Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice-chair for global fine arts. “He was an incredibly stylish man, very interested in his sartorial identity, and a great connoisseur of watches. Even photos of him wearing his watches are prized by watch collectors.”
The portrait is a highlight in New York’s fall art auction season, while its nine-digit price makes it the second-most-expensive Picasso painting to sell at auction. The artwork was bought in 1968 by Emily Fisher Landau, who is known as one of the greatest art collectors of the 20th century, and died aged 102 earlier this year. This week, Sotheby’s New York is offering a further 120 artworks from her collection, including works by Ed Ruscha, Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko.