On Monday 9 November in New York, Christie’s will offer Amedeo Modigliani’s masterpiece Nu couché (Reclining Nude). The painting, executed in 1917-18, will be the centrepiece of a special curated Evening Sale of 20th Century Art focused on the theme of ‘The Artist’s Muse’.
The painting is one of a series of great female nudes made for Léopold Zborowski that famously caused a scandal nearly a century ago when they were exhibited at Modigliani’s first and only one-man-show at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris. Outraged by the content of this show — which had caused a crowd to form outside the gallery window where one of Modigliani’s nudes was openly on display — the police demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition.
The upcoming sale this November marks the first time this portrait will appear at auction. Estimated to exceed $100 million, the portrait is poised to break the world auction record of $70.7 million for any work by Modigliani, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
‘This powerful and noble female nude is a work of timeless beauty and one of the greatest works by the artist’
‘This is quite simply one of the most important paintings I have handled in my long career at Christie’s,’ states Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President and Chief Auctioneer. ‘There are a very small number of masterpieces that we dream of handling: this magnificent Modigliani has always been one of them.’
‘This powerful and noble female nude is a work of timeless beauty and one of the greatest works by the artist,’ he continues. ‘It is a particular honour to be entrusted with the sale of this painting as my own area of expertise has always been the early 20th Century avant-garde, the paintings that shook the foundations of convention.’ Mariolina Bassetti, Christie’s Chairman and International Director, Italy, adds, ‘This is the painting that defines Modigliani.’
Originally in the collection of Modigliani’s mentor, friend and dealer, Léopold Zborowski, Nu couché (Reclining Nude) has been so widely and frequently published and referred to over the past century that it has become one of the most recognised images of early 20th century painting and certainly represents one of Modigliani’s best known works. It was also previously in the celebrated collection of the late Gianni Mattioli, one of the greatest champions of Italian early 20th Century Modernism, who organised a global tour of his superb Italian Art collection in the in the 1960s. Previously, in the 1950s, this work had toured to the Museum of Modern Art in New York where it took pride of place on the cover of the exhibition catalogue.
The painting has been featured in major museum shows across the globe, including the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Tate Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Palazzo Reale in Milan.
‘Feedback from our clients shows a huge appetite for cross-category collecting between Impressionist and Post-war Art’
After the resounding success of Christie’s innovative, cross-category approach to its major May sales series, which generated $1.7 billion in total sales, once again all the major works from its Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary sales will be exhibited in New York at the same time and sold in one week. Christie’s will host three Evening Sales and two Day Sales that week, beginning with The Artist’s Muse on Monday.
‘Our 20th Century season in May saw a record number of visitors attend our curated viewings at Rockefeller Center, leading to an unprecedented number of bidders in the salerooms,’ notes Jussi Pylkkänen. ‘Feedback from our clients shows a huge appetite for cross-category collecting between Impressionist and Post-War Art — two categories traditionally kept separate from one another. Our calendar change simply reflects the change in collecting taste. I look forward to witnessing the same wonderful atmosphere in the New York salerooms this coming season as once again we work to curate sales that capture the imagination of the world’s leading art collectors.’
November calendar updates — Christie’s New York:
Monday 9 November: The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale of 20th Century Art
Tuesday 10 November: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
Wednesday 11 November: Post-War and Contemporary Art Day Sale
Thursday 12 November: Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale, 6pm EDT
Friday 13 November: Impressionist and Modern Day and Works on Paper Sale
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