Lot 7
  • 7

Lucian Freud

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Lucian Freud
  • Four Eggs on a Plate
  • oil on canvas
  • 10.2 by 15.2cm.; 4 by 6in.
  • Executed in 2002.


A gift from the artist to the late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in 2004


London, The Wallace Collection; and New York, Acquavella Galleries, Lucian Freud: Recent Paintings and Etchings, 2004, n.p., no. 1, illustrated in colour


Martin Gayford, ‘Freud Laid Bare’, The Telegraph, 13 March 2004 (text)

Mark Holborn, Ed., Lucian Freud: 1996-2005, London 2005, n.p., no. 65, illustrated in colour

Martin Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, London 2010, p. 22, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colour in the catalogue illustration is fairly accurate although the overall tonality is deeper and richer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. No restoration is apparent when examined under ultra-violet light.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Executed on a 1:1 scale, Four Eggs on a Plate is an exquisitely beautiful painting. Freud has transformed a simple still life into a work of extraordinary power and energy that extends far beyond the limits of the canvas. Throughout Freud's lifetime still lifes have played an enduring and significant role, from as early as the 1940s they have laid the foundations to a discipline that is the principal artistic concern of his practice. Indeed, the extraordinary degree of psychological intensity and penetrating visual scrutiny that he places upon his human subjects, owes a great debt to his still lifes. In Four Eggs on a Plate, this humble subject is treated with that signature 'maximum scrutiny’: Freud renders each egg as if it were human skin, receptive to the subtle variations in colour and surface, each brushstroke is more considered than the last. As Martin Gayford noted: “…when he was painting a still life of four eggs, he discovered that on close examination each showed distinct personal traits. So the still life turned into a sort of group portrait” (Martin Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf: On sitting for a portrait by Lucian Freud, London 2010, p. 33).

Painted in 2002, Freud gifted this sublime painting to his life-long friend Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. ‘Debo’ as she was affectionately known, was the youngest of the six Mitford sisters who captivated British society in the 1930s and 1940s and in 1941 she married Andrew Cavendish. He became the 11th Duke of Devonshire in 1950 and Debo then dedicated her life to the running of the Chatsworth estate in the north of England. In Debo, Freud found a kindred spirit, someone who could match his legendary energy, eccentricity, and vitality for life. Debo herself was famed for a somewhat eccentric pursuit: a passion for chickens. Indulging Freud in her hobby she recalled:  “Good old Lu. I take him eggs every time I go to London” (Deborah Devonshire quoted in: Jessamy Calkin, ‘Elvis, Chatsworth, JFK and me’, The Daily Telegraph, 12 September 2010, online resource). If the artist was not home, she would leave them on his doorstep and this painting was born from these gifts. Freud’s painting was very much a reciprocal gesture – a heart-felt token of a lifetime of shared memories, a tender memento of a lifelong bond between the great artist and the larger-than-life Duchess.

Freud was the very first guest when Debo and her husband the 11th Duke of Devonshire moved into Chatsworth. “Lucian Freud came for the weekend”, wrote the Duchess to her sister Diana, “he seems very nice and not at all wicked but I'm always wrong about that kind of thing” (Deborah Devonshire quoted in: Annabel Rivkind, ‘The Last Mitford’, Tatler, September 2010). From then on the artist would become a regular guest of Debo and the Duke. He would stay for long periods, painting murals in the house and eventually completing six portraits of the family, including one of Debo herself: Woman in a White Shirt, 1956. This relationship was part of a paradoxical life that Freud so enjoyed, he kept one foot firmly planted in the gritty Bohemian underworld where he would fraternise with gamblers and villains in seedy London drinking dens, while the other was in the glamourous social circles of the British aristocracy. During Freud’s extraordinarily turbulent social life, countless friends would come and go, but his bond with Debo remained a rare constant throughout and lasted over fifty years.

In every sense this painting adheres to Freud’s modus operandi that everything is autobiographical and everything is a portrait. This jewel-like depiction of four eggs not only recalls Freud’s relationship with the Duchess, but also encapsulates the intensity of purpose, observation and technical virtuosity that has marked Freud as a master of his generation.