‘Mesmerising’ Modigliani masterpiece fetches $157m (£116m) at auction

Nu Couche (Sur Le Cote Gauche), a Modigliani nude (Sotheby’s/PA) Credit: Press Association Images

A Modigliani nude once considered obscene has sold for more than 157 million US dollars (£116 million) at an auction in New York.

Nu Couche (Sur Le Cote Gauche) was said by Sotheby’s to be the greatest painting from the Italian-born artist’s series of 22 nudes.

Completed in 1917, it was also the largest painting of his career.

Modigliani shocked Europe at the turn of the 19th century with his series of nudes, and his exhibition at a Paris gallery was closed by police on its opening day.

Ahead of Monday night’s auction, the painting was given a 150 million dollar (£107 million) price tag – the highest estimate ever placed on a work of art at auction.

It broke the previous 140 million dollars record for an estimate, held by Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger (Version ‘O’), from 2015.

The record for a work actually sold at auction still stands with Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi, which went under the hammer for 450 million US dollars (then £341 million) in 2017.

Before the auction, Simon Shaw, co-head worldwide of Sotheby’s impressionist and modern art department, said: “This painting reimagines the nude for the modern era.

“Modigliani depicted his models as confident and self-possessed in their sexuality.

“Nu Couche is an incredibly sensual image, with the sitter’s gaze meeting the viewer’s head-on in truly mesmerising fashion.

“While situating itself within a classical canon of nude painting, the work is radically innovative in style.”