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In early December 1917 Amedeo Modigliani’s first one-man exhibition opened in Paris. The Galerie Berthe Weill was located across the street from a police station and the station chief was scandalized by Modigliani’s paintings. The controversial exhibit included a series of large female nudes painted for Léopold Zboroswki that famously instigated the scandal nearly a century ago. An opening night crowd formed outside the gallery window where one of Modigliani’s nudes was openly on display. The station chief was infuriated by the paintings and ordered the immediate closure of the exhibition.

A question of value.

Interestingly the Wall Street Journal, who has identified the seller of the painting, but has doubts about the auction estimate of $100 million. Based on the price of the last Modigliani painting to come to auction, a reasonable estimate is possible.

The last Modigliani painting sold at auction was Nude on a Blue Cushion, an oil on canvas completed in 1917 that is 25.748” X 39.724”, or 1022.81 square inches in size.

Screen Shot 2015 09 11 at 08.23.10Nude on blue cushion  - 1917 o/c 25.748" x 39.724"

It sold, with commission, to the well-known and established Russian art collector Dimitri Rybolovlev for $118 million dollars, or roughly $115,368 dollars to the square inch.

By comparison

The painting coming to auction at Christie’s on November 9th is one of the most recognized of the series of reclining nudes Modigliani painted in 1917. Supporting the high auction price is the fact that the work has been in one private collection, has never been displayed in public and has never been sold at auction.

Screen Shot 2015 09 11 at 08.30.29Sleeping Nude with Arms Open (Red Nude) 1917, o/c 23.62" x 36.22"

Although smaller (at 855.57 square inches) than the other work, it is nevertheless a gorgeous and forthright nude of power, strength and clarity. Taking into account the earlier paintings value to the square inch, this painting should bring with commission approximately $98,698,477 million dollars.

According to Christie’s the portrait is positioned to break the existing world auction record of $70.7 million for any work by Modigliani, one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

About the Author

Lawrence Klepper

Lawrence Klepper

As an artist, Gallery Management Instructor, Gallery Director, Independent Curator, and Special Exhibitions Coordinator for City art museums, college art galleries, and commercial galleries in Califor...