Christie’s to Ask $100 Million for a Modigliani Nude—Is It Worth It?

Is Modigliani next up to join the $100 million club?

Amedeo Modigliani, Nu couché, 1917–18. Courtesy of Christie's New York.


Christie’s top contemporary specialists Brett Gorvy and Loic Gouzer took to Instagram last night to announce news of a blockbuster consignment for the upcoming fall sale season, Amedeo Modigliani’s Nu Couché (Reclining Nude) (1917-18). The painting, estimated in the region of $100 million, is poised to break the current record for a work by Modigliani, which is held by Tête (1911-12), a carved stone sculpture that sold for $70.7 million at Sotheby’s this past November.

Both Gorvy’s and Gouzer’s informal Instagram posts preceded an official announcement of the news in a press release from Christie’s this morning. Gouzer somewhat inexplicably called the painting a “nuclear bombshell.” He added, it is “difficult to say which you would want more the painting for a lifetime or the model for a night. Anyway that’s another conversation.” Entirely.


Gorvy’s albeit glowing post was a bit more subdued. Noting that he had posted images of the work in several previous Instagram mash-ups he said: “You saw it here first! Christie’s will be selling what can only be described as the greatest nude by Modigliani in private hands in New York on November 9. Estimated in the region of $100,000,00, it will not only be a deserved record for the artist but will also be the highlight of a special sale devoted to the theme of The Artist’s Muse.”

But is the lofty nine-figure estimate too bullish? There are still only a handful of artists in the so-called $100 million club, including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon, Gustav Klimt, and Andy Warhol.

Will Modgliani Become The Newest Member of the $100M Club
The $100 million estimate represents a $30 million markup for the existing record for a Modigliani painting, $68.9 million for a 1917 portrait Nu assis sur un divan (La belle romaine), a semi-topless portrait that sold at Sotheby’s New York in November 2010. Like the current offering, it was acquired directly from the artist by Parisian collector/dealer and friend of the artist, Léopold Zboroswki. To date, eight works by Modigliani have sold for more than $30 million each, according to the artnet Price database.

Amedeo Modigliani's stone Tête (1911–12) comes to auction for the first time and is estimated to sell in excess of $45 million. Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's.

Amedeo Modigliani’s
stone Tête (1911–12) holds the record for a Modigliani work at auction. It sold for $70.9 million this past November
Photo: Courtesy Sotheby’s.


“I think it’s a masterpiece,” David Nash, co-founder of Mitchell-Innes & Nash gallery in New York, and a former head of the Impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby’s, told artnet News in a telephone interview. “I think it’s probably the best of the reclining nudes. In the present state of the market I think [$100 million] is a pretty realistic assessment. It’s an absolutely fabulous picture.”

According to Christie’s, the nude is one of a series made for Zboroswki that caused a scandal when they were first exhibited at the artist’s first and only solo show at Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris in 1917.

A crowd formed outside the gallery window, where one of the nudes was openly on display and police demanded the immediate closure of the exhibition.

Modigliani was just 35 years old when he died of tubercular meningitis in 1920.

Christie’s top brass are certainly giving the painting a push. In today’s release, president and chief auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen called the painting “quite simply one of the most important paintings I have handled in my long career at Christie’s.”

The work was originally in the collection of Zboroswki and has been widely and frequently published over the past century. While the press release states that the work was “also previously” in the collection of the late Gianni Mattioli, a champion of early 20th-century Italian art, sources close to the matter confirmed that Modigliani’s seller is indeed the art historian Laura Mattioli Rossi, Mattioli’s daughter.

The painting has been included in shows at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk in Amsterdam, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Tate Gallery, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Palazzo Reale in Milan.

The news from Christie’s also coincides with announcement of another consecutive fall auction schedule shake-up. Instead of holding its major fall series of Impressionist and modern, followed by postwar and contemporary sales across two weeks, Christie’s will pack the second week of November with sales, including a hybrid, special-themed sale on November 8, titled The Artist’s Muse, of which the Modigliani will be part.

The ensuing schedule includes the postwar and contemporary art evening sale on November 10, and its Impressionist and modern art evening sale on November 12.


Related stories:

How Checkbook Art History Elevated Gustav Klimt to the $100 Million Club

10 Game-Changing Auctions

Why Is Christie’s Shaking Up Its Spring Auction Schedule?

$179 Million Picasso Sets Stratospheric Record at Christie’s $705.9 Million “Looking Forward” Sale





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