Painting of Lucian Freud's teenage lover set to auction for £10m
One of the most famous paintings to have been produced by British artist Lucian Freud could be sold for as much as £10 million when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s next month.
The work is arguably one of the most tender to have been produced by the artist, as it depicts his teenage lover, pregnant with his unborn child, Bernadine Coverley.
Freud painted the portrait at his west London studio during the 1960s, with the former convent schoolgirl going on to mother two of his children.
The picture is particularly special to daughter Bella, who sees it as a piece that captures a moment her mother was cherished by “the love of her life” for all the world to see.
She said: “It must have been a very happy time in her life, being pregnant with the man she loved and him wanting her to be there and paint her. I like thinking of her feeling cherished, there wasn’t a lot of that in her childhood.”
Even without her analysis, this painting offers a smaller flicker of insight into the pair’s relationship, which first blossomed when Freud was in his late 30s.
“My mother was very young, about 15 or 16 when they met,” she added.
“She used to go to Soho with a friend and she met my father in one of the bars or pubs, probably the French pub. I don’t remember them together when I was little but when I was 11 and we lived in Sussex my father used to visit occasionally and they got on really well. It was great seeing them like that and my mother clearly finding him very amusing and interesting still.”
Coverley later moved to Morocco with the German-born painter’s two daughters, Bella and Esther, a move that was later made the subject of a Kate Winslet film.
But Bella, 54 and now an internationally-acclaimed fashion designer, claims Coverley was always proud of the painting, which claims is the only one of Freud’s works to have featured her mother.
Despite its obvious sentimental value, the work has never been owned by the family, and was instead passed down by Freud to his Marlborough Gallery in the 1960s, where it was then sold to a private collector.
The current owners acquired the painting in 1983, but have now listed it for auction Sotheby’s; a move that will see it on sale to the general public for the very first time.
Experts have estimated it will fetch anywhere between £10 million.
Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s deputy chairman in Europe, told the Sunday Telegraph: “This astonishingly beautiful painting embodies the profound bond between Lucian and Bernadine that lasted a lifetime.”
He added that such a sale for a work of this kind was “very rare”, adding it would subsequently have “universal appeal” to buyers around the world.