Picasso’s portrait of lover Marie-Thérèse Walter as a sea creature sells for $67.5 million at auction in New York

A painting by Pablo Picasso depicting his former lover Marie-Thérèse Walter as a sea creature with tentacles sold for just over $67.5 million at auction on Tuesday.

“Woman Nude Lying Down”, or “Lady Naked Woman”, was auctioned in a Sotheby’s sale in New York, selling for $7.5 million more than the at least $60 million it was expected to fetch, according to Reuters.

In the portrait, Walter is depicted as a sprawling sea creature in a prone position with his head tilted back. According to Sotheby’s, Walter’s love of swimming partly inspired the portrait’s nautical theme.

“Nude woman reclining is a tour de force of Picasso’s celebrated artistic output in 1932,” Sotheby’s said in a description of the work.

The portrait is considered one of Picasso’s “most monumental and uninhibited depictions” of his muse, Walter, the auction house said. Tuesday was the first instance the painting was auctioned, he said.

Detailing the portrait’s provenance, the auction house said the painting had been in the possession of the artist’s estate and then in a private collection before being acquired by the seller in May 2008 through the Gagosian Gallery, headquartered in New York.

It was bought on Tuesday by Amy Cappellazzo, the former head of Sotheby’s global fine art division, who left the auction house last year, Reuters reported.

Picasso had first met Walter in 1927 after spotting her on the streets of Paris, according to Sotheby’s. She was 17 at the time, while he was 45.

Eventually, the artist began an affair with his muse, while still married to his first wife, ballet dancer Olga Khokhlova, with whom he had his first son, Paulo.

Naked woman lying was one of many paintings inspired by Walter, who eventually became the mother of his second child, Maya. Their relationship eventually ended after Picasso found his next muse, artist Dora Maar.

Picasso’s portraits of Walter have continued to be sought after, with “Woman Seated Near a Window (Marie-Thérèse),” selling for $103.41 million last year.

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