"Lost" Lempicka set to fetch millions at auction

Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:52am EDT
 
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A newly rediscovered painting by the pioneering female artist Tamara de Lempicka is expected to fetch nearly $5 million when it is auctioned at Sotheby's in May.

'Nu adosse 1' was featured in de Lempicka's first major exhibition in 1925 in Milan, after which its whereabouts went virtually unknown -- until a few months ago.

The artist's catalogue raisonne, published in 1999, listed the painting with the designation "location unknown."

The consignor, a West Coast construction company owner, had the 1925 work in his home for a decade before an art consultant recommended contacting the auction house, according to Sotheby's.

The owner "had no inkling of what it was," said Simon Shaw, Sotheby's head of Impressionist and modern art, explaining that Lempicka was Polish and sometimes signed her work "Lempinski," as was the case with "Nu adosse 1."

The auction house was able to verify the work's authenticity in large part because Lempicka's 1925 exhibition had been photographed.

"It's rare that you can actually prove that a picture is this great, long lost work as a result of a gallery installation photograph, as in this case," Shaw said.

Shaw said the piece was a classic Lempicka, noting its Art Deco esthetic and depiction of 1920s-era female sexuality, which is so endemic to her work.   Continued...

 
'Nu adosse 1' (1925) by Tamara de Lempicka is seen in this undated handout image released to Reuters March 26, 2012. A newly rediscovered painting by the pioneering female artist Tamara de Lempicka is expected to fetch nearly $5 million when it is auctioned at Sotheby's in May 2012. 'Nu adosse 1' was featured in de Lempicka's first major exhibition in 1925 in Milan, after which its whereabouts went virtually unknown -- until a few months ago. To match AUCTION-LEMPICKA/ REUTERS/Sotheby's/Handout