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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 May, 2004, 08:08 GMT 09:08 UK
Picasso painting sells for $104m
Picasso painted Garcon a la Pipe when he was 24

A 1905 masterpiece by Pablo Picasso has sold for $104m (£58m), becoming the world's most expensive painting.

Garcon a la Pipe - or Boy with a Pipe - was sold to an anonymous bidder at Sotheby's in New York.

The sale beat the $82.5m (£46m) paid for Vincent Van Gogh's Portrait of Doctor Gachet, sold in 1990.

Picasso painted Garcon a la Pipe when he was 24. It depicts a young Parisian working boy crowned with a garland of roses, holding a pipe in his left hand.

Sotheby's said Picasso's painting had been given their highest ever pre-sale estimate of $70m (£39.3m).

It is, without question, one of the most beautiful of the artist's Rose Period paintings
Charles Moffet, Sotheby's

The price fetched on Wednesday included commission. The hammer price was $93m (£51.9m).

Shortly afterwards, Manet's Courses au Bois de Boulogne, an 1872 composition showing fashionable spectators watching a horse race, sold for $26.3m (£14.6m).

The previous most expensive Picasso painting sold at auction, La Femme aux Bras Croises (Woman with Crossed Arms), went for $55m (£30.6m) in November 2000.

Picasso now has four of the top 10 most expensive paintings sold at auction, ahead of Van Gogh with three.

1 Pablo Picasso, Garcon a la Pipe, $104m (£58m), May 2004
2 Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Dr Gachet, $82.5m (£47.1m) May 1990
3 Pierre Auguste Renoir, Au Moulin de la Galette, $78m (£44.5m), May 1990
4 Peter Paul Rubens, Massacre of the Innocents, $76.7m (43.8m), July 2002
5 Vincent Van Gogh, Portrait de l'artiste sans barbe, $65m (£37.1m), November 1998
6 Paul Cezanne, Rideau, Cruchon et Compotier, $55m (£31.4m), May 1999
7 Pablo Picasso, Les Noces de Pierrette, $51.67m (£28m), November 1989
8 Pablo Picasso, Femme aux Bras Croisés, $50m (£28.5m), November 2000
9 Vincent Van Gogh, Irises, $49m (£28m), November 1989
10 Pablo Picasso, La Reve, $48m (£27.4m), November 1997

Sterling figures at 2004 values
The collection of more than 30 paintings up for auction on Wednesday once belonged to New York's Whitney family.

John Whitney, a former US ambassador to Britain, bought Garcon a la Pipe in 1950 for $30,000, which by 2004's prices would be worth $229,000 (£128,000).

Charles Moffet, co-director of Impressionist and modern art at Sotheby's, said: "It has a haunting ambiguity that has ensured its status as one of Picasso's most celebrated images of adolescent beauty.

"It is, without question, one of the most beautiful of the artist's Rose Period paintings and one of the most important early works by Pablo Picasso."

The painting was being sold by the Greentree Foundation, a philanthropic body founded by Mr Whitney's wife, Betsey, following the death of her husband in 1982.

David Norman, Sotheby's senior vice president, said: "This is not the sort of opportunity that comes once in a decade or once in a generation, but more like once in a lifetime."

The BBC's Jeremy Cooke
"A watershed moment for the art world"

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Sotheby's sells £78m collection
14 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
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24 Jun 03  |  Entertainment

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