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Modigliani lover portrait sells for £26.9 mn in London

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A portrait by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani of his lover Jeanne Hebuterne went under the hammer in London on Wednesday for £26.9 million ($42.3 million, 31.2 million euros), Christie's auction house said.

The final price for the 1919 portrait, "Jeanne Hebuterne (Au chapeau)" (Jeanne Hebuterne wearing a hat) was well over the pre-sale estimate of between £16 million and £22 million.

A Christie's spokeswoman declined to say who had bought the painting, which shows Modigliani's French muse wearing a black hat and with the swan-like neck typical of his style.

Modigliani painted the tranquil portrait shortly before his death from tuberculosis in 1920. Days later, a devastated Hebuterne threw herself from a window and died. She was pregnant with their second child at the time.

"It was a romantic, intense and ultimately tragic love story," said Giovanna Bertazzoni, head of Christie's impressionist and modern art department.

"This intense passion is actually translated in this wonderful portrait which is, of course, a homage to his love."

The portrait has been in the hands of a private collector in New York since 2006, when it was bought for £16.3 million.

As Modigliani died when he was only 35 and produced relatively few pieces during his short career, his work generates huge excitement among buyers when it makes a rare appearance at an auction.

Christie's expects to raise at least £98 million from the 78 works on sale in Wednesday's auction of impressionist and modern art.

It has been a good week for portraits of artists' lovers on auction in London.

On Tuesday, a painting by Pablo Picasso of his lover and muse Marie-Therese Walter, "Femme assise pres d'une fenetre" (Woman sitting by a window), sold for £28.6 million at Christie's rival, Sotheby's.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/modigliani-lover-portrait-sells-269-mn-london