Modigliani painting fetches $157 million at auction

This 1917 oil painting, "Nu couche (sur le cote gauche)" by Amedeo Modigliani, was auctioned at Sotheby's in New York for more than $157 million, in their Impressionist & Modern Art evening sale Monday, May 14, 2018. Sotheby’s says the painting had the highest pre-auction estimate for an artwork at $150 million. (Sotheby's via AP)

NEW YORK — A 1917 painting by Amedeo Modigliani of a reclining nude woman that was once considered obscene in Paris sold for over $157 million at an auction in Manhattan on Monday.

"Nu couche (sur le cote gauche)" was the highlight of Sotheby's "Impressionist & Modern Art" sale featuring Pablo Picasso works spanning seven decades, and paintings by Claude Monet, Edvard Munch and Georgia O'Keeffe.

Modigliani shocked Europe at the turn of the 19th century with his series of 22 nudes reclining in every possible position. When the Italian-born, Jewish artist's nudes were unveiled at a Paris gallery, police demanded that it be shut down, offended by the unflinching strokes of his oil brush that thrust art's nude figure into the modern era.

In the past half-dozen years, prices for Modigliani's works have soared, from $26 million the current owner paid for "Nu couche (sur le cote gauche)" in 2003 to as much as $170 million.

Picasso's "Le Repos," an image of his lover and "golden muse," Marie-Therese Walter, sold for $40 million. It was one of 11 Picasso works that were offered Monday evening.

Claude Monet's "Matinee sur la Seine" (Morning on the Seine), part of a lineup of river landscapes he painted while on a boat, capturing the changing light from sunrise to a lightning storm, brought in $20.6 million.

Both Munch's "Summer Night" and O'Keeffe "Lake George with White Birch" each fetched over $11 million.

Modigliani's painting, which had the highest pre-auction estimate at $150 million, was still well short of the record for the most expensive painting ever sold.

Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi" sold last year at Christie's for $450 million.

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