Page last updated at 09:48 GMT, Wednesday, 25 June 2008 10:48 UK

Record sale for Monet masterpiece

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Monet auctioned for record price

A Claude Monet painting has fetched a record £40.9m ($80.5) for the artist's work at an auction in London.

Le Bassin Aux Nympheas had been expected to fetch £24m ($47.2m) at Christie's. The identity of the bidder has not been made public.

Painted in 1919 in Giverny in France it has been seen in public just once in the past 80 years.

Monet's 1873 Le Pont du chemin de fer a Argenteuil, which sold in May, had held the previous record of £20.9m ($41.1m).

Experts say the art market remains in a "robust" position.

BBC arts correspondent David Sillito said that buyers from all over the world attended the sale.

The "hammer price" for the painting was £36.5m ($71.8m) but the overall price rose to over £40m ($78.8m) with taxes.

"There's never been such a picture sold at auction in Europe in the last 20 years," Oliver Camu of Christie's said.

Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Signed and dated
Oil on canvas
100.4 x 201 cm
Painted 1919

Monet painted several smaller water lily pieces, sometimes referred to as his "water landscapes", before he decided to embark upon a series of large-scale Nympheas in 1914.

These paintings would eventually lead to his Grandes Decorations, the celebrated frieze now in the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Le Bassin Aux Nympheas is one of a tiny handful of paintings the artist relinquished during his lifetime as he viewed his water lilies as a large work in progress.

Of its three fellow paintings one is in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, another was cut into two and the third is in a private collection.

Other highlights in the sale included works from Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas.

The auction made more than £144m ($283m) and 34 works of art sold for over £1m ($1.9m).

Art lovers everywhere should be cheered to see that, despite gloomy predictions, the art market looks to have a healthy future
Charles Dupplin, art expert

"This evening's auction realised the highest total for any art auction ever held in Europe, and illustrates the continuing strength and confidence of the art market," said Camu.

Record prices were also reached for other artists' work including Edgar Degas's Danseuse a la barre which went for £13.4m ($26.3m) and Natalia Goncharova's Les Fleurs that sold for £5.5m (£10.8m).

According to findings from the Hiscox-Art Market Research, 19th Century European art has seen a 13% rise in value since March 2007.

Art expert Charles Dupplin said despite "current financial jitters around the world" art lovers are still willing to pay money for "exquisite, unique items".

He added: "Art lovers everywhere should be cheered to see that, despite gloomy predictions, the art market looks to have a healthy future."


SEE ALSO
Rarely-seen Monet goes on display
20 Jun 08 |  Entertainment
Record price for Monet painting
07 May 08 |  Entertainment
Stolen paintings found in Zurich
19 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
'Fake Monet' is sold for £15,000
28 Jan 08 |  Northamptonshire

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