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Picasso painting may fetch 40 mn pounds

A portrait painted by Picasso when he was 22 is to be auctioned with an estimated price of 40 million pounds. The portrait is of the artist's friend Angel Fernandez de Soto and has the highest...

art and culture Updated: Mar 18, 2010 19:26 IST

PicassoA portrait painted by Picasso when he was 22 is to be auctioned with an estimated price of 40 million pounds.

The painting is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Art Foundation. The portrait is of the artist's friend Angel Fernandez de Soto and has the highest pre-auction valuation for a painting sold in Europe, Daily Express reported.

The work, also called The Absinthe Drinker, was expected to fetch up to 38 million pounds in 2006, but the auction was blocked at the last minute. The controversy over the 1903 work was resolved in January this year.

The painting will be the highlight of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art Sale in London on June 23.

Jussi Pylkkanen, president of Christie's Europe, Russia and the Middle East department, said it was "one of the most important works of art to be offered at auction in decades".

"The opportunity to acquire such a masterpiece of 20th century art is sure to prompt great excitement amongst collectors and institutions around the world. These Blue Period paintings by Picasso, executed when the artist was in his early 20s, paved the way for all the great modernist movements of the 20th Century.

"Consequently it is a painting which has the broadest possible appeal and could find its proper place in any major museum or private collection," Jussi was quoted as saying.

The dispute over the painting's ownership took place after Julius Schoeps, a professor and heir to Berlin banker Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, claimed his ancestor had to sell it at a low price after being forced to flee the Nazis.

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Art Foundation, which bought it in 1995 for 18 million pounds, said Wednesday that all the proceeds from the sale would benefit arts, culture and heritage in Britain.