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Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 08:29 GMT 09:29 UK

World: Americas

Cezanne fetches fruity $60m

Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier - Number Four in the art superleague

An anonymous telephone bidder has bought a Cezanne still life for more than $60.5m (£36.9m), the fourth highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.

The full price for Still Life With Curtain, Pitcher and Bowl of Fruit - $60,502,500 - almost doubled the $35m (£21.6m) estimate of auctioneers Sotheby's.

The painting was the star exhibit in a 50-lot sale of impressionist and modern art at the Manhattan auctioneers. The pieces were from the estate of late New York socialite and philanthropist Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, who died in March.

The wife of the former American ambassador to London John Hay Whitney, her estate was considered one of the best private American collections.

[ image: Portrait of Dr Gachet by van Gogh is holding off all comers]
Portrait of Dr Gachet by van Gogh is holding off all comers
The prized Cezanne was painted in 1893-4. Charles S Moffat, a Sotheby's specialist in impressionist and modern art, said it was "as close to perfection as I have ever witnessed a work of art".

The previous record for a Paul Cezanne sold at auction was Les Grosses Pommes, which went for $28.6m (£17.8m) in 1993.

But the French Post Impressionist, who died in 1906, has a long way to go before he can threaten king of the auction league Vincent van Gogh.

The Dutchman's Portrait of Dr Gachet fetched $82.5m (£49.1m) at Christie's in 1990, during the height of the art boom.

Nudging that price is Renoir's At the Moulin de la Galette, which sold for $78.1m (£48.1m) in 1990, followed by a van Gogh self-portrait which fetched $71.5m (£44m) in 1998.

[ image: George Seurat's L'isle de la Gande Jatte sold for $35m on Monday]
George Seurat's L'isle de la Gande Jatte sold for $35m on Monday
Monday's auction, which included paintings by Monet, Picasso, Degas, Renoir and Manet, also saw the sale of Seurat's Island of the Grande Jatte for $35.2m. (£21.4m).

The painting is one of two preparatory works for Seurat's famous painting Sunday on la Grande Jatte, which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

The other is in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The previous record for a Seurat at auction was $2.8m (£1.7m).

Sotheby's said Monday's auction was dominated by Americans.

It was also significant for the presence of a new breed of art buyers, added Sotheby's expert David Norman.

"There was a very high percentage of buyers who have entered the market only recently, in the last few years," Mr Norman said. "We had very enthusiastic participation from a whole new class of very committed collectors."

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