Modigliani’s Nu couché (Reclining Nude) leads a night of records in New York

Five world auction records for an artist set in The Artist’s Muse sale, as modernist masterpiece sells for second highest price ever paid at auction

Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu couché (Reclining Nude), painted in 1917-1918, led the way on a night of records at Christie’s New York, realising $170,405,000 (with buyer’s premium) in The Artist’s Muse, a curated Evening Sale. In doing so, the modernist masterpiece eclipsed the previous auction record for the artist by almost $100 million and became the second highest price ever paid at auction for a work of art.

Video: A closer look at Modigliani's Nu Couché. Watch video

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 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.


Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Nu couché, 1917-18. Oil on canvas. Sold for: $170,405,000 / £113,000,663 / €157,861,926

On the portrait’s first appearance at auction, seven bidders pushed the price well beyond its estimate before the hammer came down just short of the $179,364,992 paid for Pablo Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) at Christie’s New York in May 2015.

We are delighted to confirm that the Long Museum has purchased our top lot of the evening, Modigliani’s Nu couché — Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President

‘In recent years we have created very meaningful relationships with collectors in China and we are delighted to confirm that the Long Museum has purchased our top lot of the evening, Modigliani’s Nu couché,’ explained Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s Global President, after conducting the auction. ‘It is a superb and well-deserved recognition for the artist to have realised a price $100 million higher than any other work previously offered at auction.

AUCTION REPORT: Freud, Fontana and Bourgeois shine in Post-War evening sale. Read more here.

‘Works of this quality appear only rarely on the market and Christie’s is proud to have sold many paintings of this calibre in recent seasons,’ Pylkkänen added, ‘including Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) and Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud, both of which made outstanding records for two of the other great artistic geniuses of the 20th century.’


Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997), Nurse, 1964. Oil and Magna on canvas. Sold for $95,365,000 / £63,239,390 / €88,345,428

VIDEO: A closer look at Roy Lichtenstein's Nurse. Watch Video.

Additional artist world auction records were set with Roy Lichtenstein’s Nurse, an iconic Pop Art heroine painted in 1964, which sold for $95,365,000; Femme nue couchée, executed in 1862 by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), realised $15,285,000, almost $12 million more than the previous record; Lady Abdy by Baltus, painted in 1935, sold for $9,909,000, more than three times the previous record for the artist; and The Little Star Dweller (2006) by Yoshitomo Nara, which realised $3,413,000 (all prices including buyer’s premium).

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), Thérèse, circa 1902-1903. Carved miro wood, gold gilding and copper nails; unique. Sold for $30,965,000 / £20,533,820 / €28,685,746

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) Tänzerin mit gehobenem Bein, 1913. Carved and painted oakwood. Sold for $8,005,000/ £5,308,355/ €7,415,773

Further records for an artist were set by Paul Gauguin’s Thérèse, 1902-03, which sold for $30,965,000, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s Tänzerin mit gehobenem Bein, 1913, which realised $8,005,000, both world auction records for a sculpture by the artists.

With premiums, the Artist’s Muse sale, which offered 34 masterpieces, realised $491,252,000 / £325,830,239 (87 per cent sold by value). On the night, 12 works sold for hammer prices of more than $10 million, including Homme à l’épée by Pablo Picasso ($20,885,000), L’homme à la pipe by Paul Cézanne ($20,885,000) and James Lord by Alberto Giacometti ($20,885,000).

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