On July 1, Sotheby’s is offering a small painting, titled, Four Eggs on a Plate (2002), by Lucian Freud at its upcoming London contemporary evening sale. The estimate for the work is $152–230,000 (£100–150,000).
The artist gave the painting as a personal gift to his friend, Deborah Devonshire, known as the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. She was the youngest of the famous Mitford sister socialites; when she married Andrew Cavendish, who later became the Duke of Devonshire, she was nicknamed “Debo” by friends.
She had an unusual passion for chickens, and would frequently bring the artist eggs when she visited his studio. “Good old Lu. I take him eggs every time I go to London, ” Devonshire said (see Lucian Freud’s Auerbach Collection Accepted in Lieu of Taxes By UK Government and Lucian Freud’s Willed Millions Stay Secret).
Freud is better known for his large, fleshy portraits often of nudes, such as Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1994), that was a top seller at Christie’s evening sale on May 14. It realized $56.2 million, which was a new auction record for the artist.
In comparison, Four Eggs on a Plate is estimated at a fraction of that price, though it could conceivably sell for far more given its illustrious history (see Lucian Freud’s Voluptuous Muse is Making Art and $81.9 Million Rothko Leads Christie’s Frenzied $658 Million Contemporary Evening Sale).
Devonshire had kept the painting wrapped in cloth from the artist’s studio with a note reading: “Box & rag he uses in his studio containing the painting of 4 eggs given me by Lucian Freud autumn 2002, DD”. The lot will include the note, the artist’s cloth, and the blue box in which it was kept.
“This small, exquisitely beautiful painting was a treasured gift and today it stands as a token of their enduring friendship,” said Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s senior international specialist in contemporary art. “We see Freud’s tremendous virtuosity as a painter transforming a simple subject into a work of extraordinary power.”
Dowager died last year, at 94 years old.
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