Nu couché at the forefront of new Christie's sale

Amedeo Modigliani’s masterpiece Nu couché is set to spearhead a major sale at leading art business Christie’s in November as part of its 20th Century art focused sale in New York.
The sale is based around the theme of “The Artist’s Muse”, with Modigliani’s masterpiece from 1917-18 set to be the centrepiece of a series of great female nudes made for Polish poet and art dealer Léopold Zborowski.
The collection famously caused a stir when it was unveiled at Modigliani’s first and only one-man show at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris. Outrage at the time was so fervent it caused local police to demand the exhibition’s immediate closure, with crowds gathering outside the gallery in shock at the openly displayed pictures of Modigliani’s nudes.

First-time appearance

The sale in November at Christie’s is unlikely to draw as much vehement criticism from onlookers, but it is nevertheless the first time the portrait of Nu couché has appeared at auction.
That doesn’t mean it has created any less of a stir within the industry, with experts estimating that it could exceed $100 million, breaking the world auction record of  $70.7 million for any work by Modigliani, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
Jussi Pylkkänen, Christie’s global president and chief auctioneer, said the painting was one of the most important he had handled in his career at the company.
He added: “There are a very small number of masterpieces that we dream of handling: this magnificent Modigliani has always been one of them. This powerful and noble female nude is a work of timeless beauty and one of the greatest works by the artist. It is a particular honour to be entrusted with the sale of this painting as my own area of expertise has always been the early 20th Century avant-garde, the paintings that shook the foundations of convention.”

Plenty of history

The notoriety of Nu couché means it is arguably one of the most recognisable pieces of 20th century painting.
The piece was was initially in the collection of Modigliani’s mentor, friend, and dealer, Léopold Zborowski, having previously been a part of a collection owned by the late Gianni Mattioli, who was known as one of the greatest champions of Italian early 20th Century Modernism.
The work has also graced the walls of a various famous museums across the world, including the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Tate Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Palazzo Reale in Milan.