Modigliani masterpiece 'Nu couché' estimated to auction for in excess of USD 150 million
Sotheby’s unveiled Amedeo Modigliani’s stunning Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) in Hong Kong to a packed audience of collectors and media, who are the first ever to view the masterpiece on exhibition in Asia.
The painting is estimated to sell for in excess of $150 million in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale on 14 May 2018 – the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art at auction.
Painted a century ago, Nu couché is the greatest work from the iconic series in which Modigliani reinvented the nude for the Modern era.
Upon their debut exhibition in 1917, these striking and sensual images stopped traffic – quite literally – and prompted the police to close the show. Today, the series is recognized as one of the seminal achievements in Modern painting. The shock and awe that Modigliani’s nudes continue to elicit was evident most recently during Tate Modern’s celebrated retrospective of the artist’s work that included Nu couché.
In addition to being the finest example from the series, Nu couché is distinguished further as the largest painting of Modigliani’s entire oeuvre – measuring nearly 58 inches / 147 centimeters across – and the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas.
The majority of the 22 reclining nudes from the series are found in museums, with particular depth in the United States: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each hold three examples. Outside of the United States, institutions with reclining nudes include the Long Museum in Shanghai and The Courtauld Gallery in London.
Nu couché was acquired by the present owner at auction in 2003 for $26.9 million. In 2015, another reclining nude from the series sold at auction for $170.4 million, at the time marking the second-highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.
Simon Shaw, Co-Head Worldwide of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department, commented: “This painting reimagines the nude for the Modern era. Modigliani depicted his models as confident and self-possessed in their sexuality. Nu couché is an incredibly sensual image, with the sitter’s gaze meeting the viewer’s head-on in truly mesmerizing fashion. While situating itself within a classical canon of nude painting, the work is radically innovative in style: Modigliani assimilates a world of visual cultures across the centuries, from Egyptian, Japanese, African, Indian and Iberian sculpture, from Renaissance frescoes through Romanticism to the cutting-edge of Cubism. Together these pictures signal a watershed in perhaps the greatest tradition in art – there is the nude before Modigliani, and there is the nude after Modigliani.”