Once owned by Gianni Versace kept by Picasso for himself, painting to be sold in London on March 1.
London’s March 1 sale at Sotheby’s will feature a Picasso portrait of his daughter Maya, who just died in December of 2022 at 87 years of age. In a market cautiously feeling its way forward in an uncertain macroeconomic environment, Sotheby’s has bought a work, Fillette au bateau (Maya), that fits the age-old auction trifecta of a fresh to market, good provenance and conservative estimate.
One might add the additional appeal of the subject matter as the Picasso market has experienced a strong rise in interest for works painted during this period when Marie-Thérèse Walter, Maya’s mother, was a central figure in Picasso’s work. In 2021, a painting depicting Marie-Thérèse was sold for $103 million. Three years earlier, a much smaller portrait of Marie-Thérèse painted five years later made $68.5 million in a London auction.
Picasso’s paintings of his several children (from different mothers) are also popular subjects. A dual portrait of Claude and Paloma from 1950 made $28 million in 2013.
Fillette au bateau, Maya was painted in 1938. Picasso kept the work for himself until he died in 1973. It was eventually bought by fashion designer Gianni Versace. When Versace’s art collection was sold in 1999, two years after his murder in Florida, the painting made $6 million at auction.
Coming to auction 24 years after being sold from a celebrated estate, the $15 million estimate suggests the consignors are interested in testing the uncertain market with a work that could have appeal across a wide range of collectors.
The art market is looking for bellwether lots to indicate a future trend. After several years where all sectors of the market have performed so well, no one expects those conditions to continue. If the work does well and exceeds the estimate by a significant margin, it might portend a flight to quality where distinctive works by the most recognized artists with strong provenance gain relative value.
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