Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman with a Watch’ fetches $139.3 million at Sotheby’s auction

One of Pablo Picasso’s masterpieces, “Woman with a Watch,” was sold at auction Wednesday night for $139.3 million by Sotheby’s in New York, the second-highest price ever achieved for the artist.

The 1932 painting depicts one of the Spanish artist’s companions and muses, the French painter Marie-Therese Walter, and had been valued at over $120 million before going on the block, according to Sotheby’s.

The painting is part of Sotheby’s special sale this week of the collection of the wealthy New York patron of the arts Emily Fisher Landau, who died this year at the age of 102.

Julian Dawes, the house’s head of impressionist and modern art, called the Picasso canvas “a masterpiece by every measure.”

“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 considered 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 $25-$35 million.

Walter met Picasso in Paris in 1927, when the Spaniard was still married to Russian-Ukrainian ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, and when Walter was 17.

She also featured in “Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese)”, which was sold in 2021 for $103.4 million by Christie’s auction house.

In 2021, Sotheby’s also sold another Picasso featuring Walter, for $103 million. The couple had a daughter together who died last year.

Fifty years after his death in 1973 aged 91, Picasso remains one of the most influential artists of the modern world, and is often hailed as a dynamic and creative genius.

But in the wake of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault, his reputation has been tarnished by accusations that he exerted a violent hold over the women who shared his life and inspired his art.

Sotheby’s is hoping to net around $400 million in sales for pieces from Landau’s collection, which also includes works by Jasper Johns, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol.

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