Will This Portrait of Amedeo Modigliani’s Tragic Lover Yield $40 Million at Sotheby’s?

Modigliani's market success seems poised to continue.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard), 1919. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.
Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard), 1919. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.
Amedeo Modigliani, <em> Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard)</em>, 1919. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard) (1919). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

Another big ticket Amedeo Modigliani portrait is coming to auction at Sotheby’s London, in the Impressionist and modern art evening sale on June 21. Featuring Modigliani’s lover, artist Jeanne Hébuterne, the painting is expected to fetch more than £28 million ($40 million), according to a press release.

The auction house writes that the canvas, titled Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard), “reveals a tender moment between a pioneering Modernist and his loyal muse.”

The painter met Hébuterne, a young art student, in 1917, and the two were said to be inseparable for the last three years of Modigliani’s life. Following his death of tuberculous in 1920, Hébuterne, who was reportedly pregnant with their child, committed suicide by jumping out of a window.

The painting, despite its tragic air, is unlikely to match the $170 million sale price achieved by Modigliani’s Nu Couché (Reclining Nude), 1917–18, which became the second-most expensive painting ever sold at auction at Christie’s New York in November 2015. Needless to say, the final hammer price was considerably more than the already-impressive $100 million pre-sale estimate.

Amedeo Modigliani, <em> Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard)</em>, 1919. Courtesy of Sotheby's London.

Amedeo Modigliani, Jeanne Hébuterne (Au Foulard) (1919). Courtesy of Sotheby’s London.

According to the artnet Price Database, a sale of $40 million would make Jeanne Hébuterne the seventh most expensive work by the artist to come to auction. Prior to Nu Couché, Modigliani’s record belonged to the stone sculpture Tête (1911–12), which fetched $70.7 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2014. A similar work by the same name (circa 1910–12) brought in $43.1 million ($52.3 million) at Christie’s Paris in June 2010. And another nude portrait, Nu assis sur un divan (La belle romaine), 1917, sold for $69 million, also at Sotheby’s New York, in 2010.

The artists’s fifth- and sixth-most valuable works are two other portraits of women: Paulette Jourdain (circa 1919), sold for $42.8 million at Sotheby’s New York in November 2015; and Jeanne Hébuterne (Au chapeau), 1919, which went for £26.9 million ($42.1 million) at Christie’s London in February 2013.

The Hébuterne canvas has been in a private collection since 1986, and is expected, along with Pablo Picasso‘s Femme Assise (1909), an early Cubist portrait, to spark increased interest in the upcoming sale.

“There is such a fascinating dialogue between the Modigliani portrait of Jeanne and the Cubist portrait of Fernande by Picasso,” noted Thomas Bompard, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and modern art evening sales, in a statement. “Obsessed by their lovers’ features, both brought the art of portraiture into the modern era. One is expressed in beautiful curves and colors, the other is all about sharp angles and light effects.”


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