Modigliani’s 1917-18 canvas, Nu CouChé, became the 10th work of art to sell under the hammer for nine figures.
Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Italian artist from Livorno, of Jewish ancestry, the fourth and youngest child in the family. After recovering from an attack of typhoid in 1898, the turning point in his life, he was allowed to drop out of school and take art lessons. He studied in Venice and Paris where he enjoyed the debauchery of the artists on Montmartre, following the true Bohemian lifestyle. Described as a ‘swine and a pearl’ by Beatrice Hastings in 1914, she was not impressed that he indulged in hashish and brandy at their first meeting. However, after their second meeting she became his mistress and his muse. In 1917, he met Jeanne Hébuterne, an art student, who became his partner and model until his death. His first one-man exhibition, in 1917, was closed after a few hours by the chief of police who was scandalised by Modigliani’s nudes. In 1918, he and Jeannie left Paris, which was under the threat of German occupation, for Nice, where Jeanne gave birth to a girl. By the end of 1919, he became seriously ill with tuberculosis, exacerbated by poverty, alcoholism and addiction to narcotics, and died in January, 1920. On the following day, his pregnant partner committed suicide. Primarily a figurative artist, Modigliani’s style is characterised by mask-like faces and elongation of form – and is unmistakable.
Amedeo Modigliani’s painting of an outstretched nude woman, Reclining Nude, sold for US$170.4 million with fees, in a packed salesroom at Christie’s on 9 November, 2015 – the second- highest price ever paid for a painting at auction.
It was bought by Chinese billionaire Liu Yiqian for his private collection. Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’) holds the record for an auction sale, having been sold for US$179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015.
The highest price for any artwork was the $300 million paid for Paul Gauguin’s Nafea Faa Ipoipo (When Will You Marry?) in a private sale to
Qatar Museums in February 2015. Modigliani’s painting became the 10th work of art to sell at auction for a nine figure sum. The price was a record for Modigliani at auction, beating the $70.7 million paid in New York last November for his 1911-12 sculpture Tête. His Portrait de Paulette Jourdain, from around 1919, sold for $42.8 million at Sotheby’s sale of the A. Alfred Taubman estate last week, well over its estimate of $25 million.
Modigliani’s nude was the star lot around which Christie’s built its themed ‘Artist’s Muse’ auction, designed to attract international buyers of the world’s most expensive art.“This painting leaps off the page as the most vibrant, sexual, lyrical of the catalogue raisonee,” said Ana Maria Celis, a Christie’s specialist in Post- War and Contemporary Art.
In its preview exhibition, Christie’s deliberately positioned the Modigliani near Lucian Freud’s painting of his nude daughter Bella, Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa.
Celis noted that the Freud was less erotic than the Modigliani, “almost contemplative” by comparison.
Below are the nine other works that have sold for more than US$100 million at auction, not adjusted for inflation (in $US), according to Christie’s.
9 works sold for 9 figures
Francis Bacon, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud (in 3 parts)” (1969), oil on canvas, 2013, Christie’s New York
Alberto Giacometti, “L’homme au doigt” (1947), bronze with patina and hand-painted, 2015, Christie’s New York
Edvard Munch, “The Scream” (1895), pastel on board, 2012, Sotheby’s New York
Andy Warhol, “Silver Car Crash,” 2013, Sotheby’s New York
Alberto Giacometti, “L’homme qui marche” (1960), bronze, 2010, Sotheby’s London
Alberto Giacometti, “Chariot” (1950), painted bronze, 2014, Sotheby’s New York