Nu couché is not only the largest work from Amedeo Modigliani's career and his greatest nude, it is now the most valuable work ever sold at Sothebys—selling for $157 million in the 14 May Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale. Nu couché was acquired by its previous owner at auction in 2003 for $26.9 million.
In 2010, the Modigliani oil painting Nu Assis Sur Un Divan (La Belle Romaine) also of 1917 sold at Sotheby's New York for $69 million. In 2014 his 1911–12 sculpture Tête achieved $70.7 million at Sotheby's New York, which was the second highest price for the artist at auction prior to this evening's sale.
Painted a century ago, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is the greatest work from the iconic series in which Amedeo Modigliani reinvented the nude for the Modern era. Upon their debut exhibition in 1917, these striking and sensual images quite literally stopped traffic and prompted the police to close the show. Today, the series is recognized as one of the seminal achievements in Modern painting. The shock and awe that Modigliani’s nudes continue to elicit was evident during Tate Modern’s recent celebrated retrospective of the artist’s work that included Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) as its cover star.
In addition to being the finest example from the series, Nu couché (sur le côté gauche) is distinguished further as the largest painting of Modigliani’s entire oeuvre – measuring nearly 58 inches (147 centimeters) across – and the only one of his horizontal nudes to contain the entire figure within the canvas. The majority of the 22 reclining nudes from the series are found in museums, with particular depth in the United States: the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York each hold three examples. Outside of the United States, institutions with reclining nudes include the Long Museum in Shanghai and The Courtauld Gallery in London.