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Picasso’s ‘Woman with a Watch’ fetches USD139M at NY auction

NEW YORK (AFP) – One of Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces, Woman with a Watch, was sold at auction on Wednesday night for USD139.3 million by Sotheby’s in New York, the second-highest price ever achieved for the artist.

In a jam-packed room at the venerable auction house, it only took a few minutes of telephone bidding for the 1932 painting depicting one of the Spanish artist’s companions and muses, the French painter Marie-Therese Walter, to be sold.

Femme a la montre had been valued at over USD120 million before going on the block, according to Sotheby’s.

It was part of the house’s special sale this week of the collection of New York arts patron Emily Fisher Landau, who died this year at age 102.

Sotheby’s head of modern art Julian Dawes called the Picasso canvas – which hung in Landau’s living room – “a masterpiece by every measure”.

Pablo Picasso’s ‘Femme a la Montre’. PHOTO: AFP

“Painted in 1932 – Picasso’s ‘annus mirabilis’ – it is full of joyful, passionate abandon yet at the same time it is utterly considered and resolved,” he said.

Walter was regarded as Picasso’s “golden muse”, and features in another of his works going under the hammer on Thursday at Christie’s: Femme endormie, or Sleeping Woman, estimated to sell for USD25-USD35 million.

She also featured in Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese), or Woman Sitting Near a Window, which was sold in 2021 for USD103.4 million.

Walter met Picasso in Paris in 1927, when she was just 17 and the Spanish artist was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova. The couple had a daughter, who died last year.

Another Picasso from 1932 was sold for USD106 million in 2010.

The record sale for one of his works was of The Women of Algiers (Version O), a 1955 oil painting which sold for USD179.4 million.

When it went under the hammer at Christie’s New York in 2015, it was also the record for any work of art sold at auction.

It was dethroned in November 2017 by the sale of Salvator Mundi attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, which went for USD450 million and holds the record to this day.