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A portrait of Pablo Picasso’s mistress looks set to sell for more than $60 million when it goes under the hammer at Sotheby’s for the first time ever.

“Femme nue couchee” (Naked woman reclining) is a portrait by world-famous artist Pablo Picasso. He painted it in April 1932 while he was dating Marie-Therese Walter. It’s not the only work of art he produced during his romantic involvement period with Walter, but it’s the first time that this portrait will be auctioned off.

It will go under the hammer in New York on 17 May at the well-known auction house Sotheby’s.

In a statement, Sotheby’s said that the rare portrait is from one of the most prolific years of the artist’s career and captures Walter as a sea creature, with gray, languorous limbs and a woman’s face in profile.

Picasso was pioneering “in the history of the nude figure with his depiction of her reclining in a highly abstracted space, highlighting her biomorphic figure with touches of fertility, sexuality, and grace”.

CNN reports that Picasso first met Walter in Paris in 1927 when she was 17 years old and he was still married to his first wife, Olga Khokhlove, a Russian-Ukrainian dancer. Walter would become the inspiration for some of his most sought-after canvases, drawings and sculptures.

The portrait is being sold at auction by an anonymous seller. They acquired “femme nue couchee” from the artist’s family in 2006. Before that, the famous painting was held in Picasso’s estate for several decades.

Image credit: Sotheby’s

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