A masterpiece from
Picasso's "blue period" sold for 34.7 million pounds (51.8 million dollars) at a major auction of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's in London Wednesday.
The 1903 painting, Portrait of
Angel Fernandez de Soto, had been expected to fetch between 30 and 40 million pounds at the evening sale, which Christie's said could yield a total of 230 million pounds, DPA reported.
However, the price for the Picasso, formerly owned by
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Britain's foremost musical composer, remained well below expectations.
Christie's had billed the sale as the "most valuable art auction ever to take place in London."
The compelling painting, which portrays Angel with a glass of absinthe and his pipe, smoke curling upwards, had been withdrawn in the last minute from an auction in New York in 2006, following an ownership claim.
Proceeds from its sale will go to the Lloyd Webber Foundation, a charity which promotes the arts. The composer acquired the painting from the Stralem Collection at a 1995 auction in New York for 29.2 million dollars.
A water-lily painting by French Impressionist
Claude Monet failed to sell at Wednesday's auction. The 1906 painting, Nympheas, was withdrawn after it failed to reach its reserve price. It had been estimated to fetch between 30 and 40 million pounds.
Other major works included in the evening sale were paintings by
Matisse, van Gogh, Magritte and Gustav Klimt, a leader of the Austrian art movement known as Secession.
Prices for good art have soared recently, with Picasso's 1932 picture Nude, Green Leaves and Bust fetching 106 million dollars in New York last month, making it the most expensive art work sold at auction.