Led by Picasso's US$20.4m painting, Christie's London evening sale raked in US$155m

London's spring sales week began yesterday at Christie's with a 20th/21st century art evening sale, which raked in £129 million (US$155 million). Amongst 74 lots offered, 64 were sold, reaching a sell-through rate of 85%. ​​​​​

Pablo Picasso's portrait of his last great love, Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline), which carried the highest estimate, was the sale's most expensive lot, selling for £16.9 million (around US$20.4 million) with fees.

Lot 16 | Pablo Picasso | Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline), Oil on canvas
Created at La Californie on 25 March 1956
194.5 x 130.1 cm
Provenance (Amended by The Value):

  • Galerie Louise Leiris [Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler], Paris, until at least 1958
  • Private collection, United States, by whom acquired from the above, and thence by descent;
  • Sale, Christie’s, London, 6 February 2007, lot 44 (Sold: £2,484,000)
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £15,000,000 - 20,000,000 (around US$18 - 24.1 million)
Hammer Price: £14,500,000
Sold: £16,892,000 (around US$20.4 million)

Coming to auction with a third-party guarantee, the lot was met with rather lukewarm responses. Auctioneer started the bidding at £12.5 million; and the lot was quickly hammered at £14.5 million, going to a bidder on the phone with paddle number 994 – possibly the third-party guarantor represented by Giovanna Bertazzoni, Vice-Chairman, 20th - 21st Century Department, for £16.9 million (around US$20.4 million) with fees.

The work last hit the auction block in 2007, when it sold for £2.48 million (around US$4.88 million) to the present owner in the same saleroom. Having achieved a final price of £16.9 million, its value saw a sixfold increase in 16 years. 

The lot hammered on a bid of £14.5 million

Giovanna Bertazzoni, Vice-Chairman, 20th - 21st Century Department, won the lot for her client with paddle number 994

Praised today as one of the most important artists of the 20th century, Picasso's relationship with women are intricately woven into his art – each would represent a new phase and a further development in his artistic style. Of all the women associated with him, Jacqueline Roque, his last great love and second wife, held a special place as he created more pieces of art centered on her than on any other. 

Jacqueline Roque came into Picasso's life in 1952, when she was working as an assistant at the Galerie Madoura in Vallauris, the pottery where the artist spent significant time to make his ceramics. Immediately Picasso was struck by her classical, faintly oriental beauty. At the time, Jacqueline was in her late twenties, and Picasso in his early seventies. 

Though Picasso was still in a relationship with Françoise Gilot then, with whom he shared a home in Vallauris, it did not stop him from pursuing the young lady. In the fall of 1953, Gilot decided to end their decade-long love affair, taking with her their two children back to Paris. Soon after, Picasso began to date Jacqueline in earnest.

Jacqueline Roque was Pablo Picasso's final muse and second wife

Jacqueline sat in a rocking-chair

Painted in 1956, the present lot bears witness to the beginning of their relationship, when the couple had just bought a new love nest in the hills above Cannes.

It was a large home, and Picasso turned the sunlit ground floor rooms into his studio, where he created several paintings showcasing his lover. In such artworks, Jacqueline was often depicted seated in Picasso's best-loved rocking chair, a constant fixture in his studio which he brought with from home to home.

While Picasso had a fondness of featuring woman sitting cross-legged or clasping her knees, in Femme dans un rocking-chair (Jacqueline), Jacqueline is presented as authoritative and impressive, sitting up straight in her throne-like chair. Such pose is instantly reminiscent of court and society portraiture, particularly the renowned Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez, the artist who Picasso had long admired. 

Diego Velázquez | Portrait of Pope Innocent X

In fact, Jacqueline's classic facial features had provided an untapped source of inspiration for Picasso. When he first met Jacqueline, Picasso’s acute visual memory immediately connected her face to Eugene Delacroix’s famed Femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in their Apartment). The woman sitting with one knee raised on the right side of the French Romantic artist’s painting has a classic Mediterranean charm very similar to Jacqueline’s.

Picasso once tenderly explained this coincidence, “Delacroix had already met Jacqueline.” Although Picasso had been contemplating the women of Algiers as a motif for quite some time, it wasn't until Jacqueline entered his life that he finally found a way to reinterpret the masterpiece. 

Eugène Delacroix | Women of Algiers

The spotlight of the sale was undoubtedly on Pablo Picasso, whose works took up three places of the top five most expensive paintings sold. The second highest achieving lot belonged to Paul Cezanne's landscape painting, which was offered for sale for the first time in over a century. The fifth and sixth place went to works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Vincent Van Gogh respectively.

The sale also saw three emerging artists set auction records, including Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Cristina Banban and Caroline Walker. 

Lot 30 | Paul Cezanne | L'Aqueduc du canal de Verdon au nord d'Aix, Oil on canvas
Painted in 1882-1883
60 x 73.4 cm

  • Ambroise Vollard, Paris, by whom acquired directly from the artist
  • Dr Emil Hahnloser, Winterthur, by whom acquired from the above, circa 1920, and thence by descent

Estimate: £6,000,000 – 9,000,000
Hammer Price: £6,000,000
Sold: £7,159,000

Lot 47 | Pablo Picasso | Mousquetaire I (Espagnol du XVllème siècle), Oil on canvas
Painted on 21 April 1967
128.3 x 97.1 cm
The artist’s estate

  • Marina Picasso, Paris (inv. no. 13611), by descent from the above, until at least October 1998
  • Private collection, Switzerland
  • Anonymous sale, Christie’s, New York, 8 November 2006, lot 85
  • Acquired at the above sale by the family of the present owner

Estimate: £4,500,000 – 6,500,000
Hammer Price: £4,500,000
Sold: £5,442,000

Lot 43 | Pablo Picasso | Femme assise dans un fauteuil tressé, en gris (Françoise), Oil on canvas
Painted in Vallauris on 11 December 1953
116.2 x 88.9 cm

  • The artist's estate (no. 13263)
  • Marina Picasso, Paris, by descent from the above
  • Acquired from the above in 1983; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 5 November 2002, lot 44
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £6,000,000 – 9,000,000
Hammer Price: £4,400,000
Sold: £5,322,000

Lot 28 | Pierre-Auguste Renoir | Jeune fille endormie (La dormeuse), Oil on canvas
Painted circa 1880
50.2 x 61.2 cm

  • Paul Durand-Ruel, Paris & New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist on 14 February 1881
  • Marie-Thérèse Durand-Ruel, by descent from the above, circa 1922
  • Comtesse Madeleine de Brecey, Paris, by descent from the above on 13 June 1949 and until at least 1974
  • Private collection, Switzerland, by 1986

Estimate: £2,000,000 – 3,000,000
Hammer Price: £4,100,000
Sold: £4,962,000

Lot 27 | Vincent Van Gogh | Kop van een vrouw (Gordina de Groot)(Head of a Woman [Gordina de Groot]), Oil on canvas laid down on panel
Painted in Nuenen in March-April 1885
41.3 x 32.6 cm

  • Anna Cornelia van Gogh-Carbentus, Nuenen and Breda [the artist's mother] from the artist between November 1885 and February 1886
  • Janus Schrauwen, Breda, from the above in April 1888
  • Jan C. Couvreur, Breda, by whom acquired from the above on 14 August 1902
  • Kees Mouwen Jr & Willem van Bakel, Breda, by whom acquired from the above between 1902-1903
  • Kunstzalen Oldenzeel, Rotterdam, on consignment from the above by November 1903
  • H. Daniel Pierson, The Hague, by whom acquired from the above in December 1903
  • Anna-Marie Veuve-Pierson, The Hague & then Zurich, by descent from the above and thence by descent to the present owners

Estimate: £1,000,000 – 2,000,000
Hammer Price: £4,000,000
Sold: £4,842,000

Lot 1 | Michaela Yearwood-Dan | Love me nots, Oil, acrylic, ink, embroidery and gold leaf on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Executed in 2021
200 x 250 cm

  • Tiwani Contemporary, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £40,000 – 60,000
Hammer Price: £580,000
Sold: £730,800

Lot 3 | Caroline Walker | The Puppeteer, Oil on linen (Auction record for the artist)
Painted in 2013
180.2 x 239.8 cm

  • ProjectB Gallery, Milan
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2013

Estimate: £150,000 – 200,000
Hammer Price: £550,000
Sold: £693,000

Lot 2 | Cristina Banban | La Fatiga Que Me Das (You Exhaust Me), Acrylic on canvas (Auction record for the artist)
Painted in 2019
150.1 x 180.4 cm

  • WOAW Gallery, Hong Kong
  • Private Collection, Asia
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £50,000 – 70,000
Hammer Price: £130,000
Sold: £163,800

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie's London
Sale: 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale
Date: 28 February 2023
Number of Lots: 74
Sold: 64
Unsold: 10
Sale Rate: 86%
Sale Total: £128,952,500 (US$155,387,763)​​​​​