On Wednesday, Pablo Picasso's "Femme à la montre" sold for $139 million at Sotheby's auction house. It is the second highest price achieved by the artist (the first being Les Femmes d'Alger which sold for $179.3 million at Christie's in 2015), and the most expensive piece of art sold at auction this year. The final price surpassed the estimate by $19 million.
Created in 1932, the vibrant piece depicts Marie-Therese Walter, the French model who was and lover of Picasso, sitting in a red chair against a stark blue background. Previously, the piece belonged to renowned art collector, Emily Fisher Landau, who built an impressive collection of modern and contemporary works after a jewelry heist in her Upper East Side home. Alongside Picasso, Landau collected works by Josef and Anni Albers, Matisse, Mark Rothko, and Paul Klee, and eventually opened up a private museum dedicated to her collection.
Born in Le-Perreux-Sur-Marne Walter met Picasso by chance outside of the Galeries Lafayette in Paris in 1927. According to the exhibition Muse, Lover, Lifeblood: How My Grandmother Woke the Genius in Picasso by Olivier Widmaier Picasso, Picasso was entranced by the fact that she "had an interesting face" and the two quickly began a secret love affair while Picasso was still married to Olga Khokhlova, a Ukrainian ballerina. Beginning in 1932, Picasso painted several portraits of Walters who became the most frequent subjects in his paintings. Another 1932 portrait of Walter, Femme Nue Couchee, sold for $67.5 million at auction in 2022.
In total, the Emily Fisher Landau Sale, which the piece was a part of, made $406.4 million, marking it the most valuable sale devoted to a female collector in auction history.
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