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Van Gogh Sells for $71 Million

November 20, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Vincent Van Gogh’s ``Portrait of the Artist Without Beard,″ which he painted in an asylum near the end of his life and gave it to his mother for her birthday, sold for more than $71 million at auction Thursday.

The 1889 self-portrait, believed to be the last ever completed by the troubled artist, brought the second highest price ever paid for a work by van Gogh and the third highest price ever achieved at auction. The price was more than triple the $20 million it was expected to bring.

``It’s an absolutely stunning painting,″ said Andree Corroon, a spokeswoman for Christie’s auction house. ``He was very upset that he couldn’t make it back for (his mother’s) 70th birthday, so he painted this painting to show her that he was in good health, which he wasn’t. And he shaved his beard off to make himself look younger.″

Van Gogh’s ``Portrait of Dr. Gachet,″ is the only work by the artist that has fetched a greater price. It was sold by Christie’s in 1990.

Bidding for ``Portrait of the Artist Without Beard″ began at $14 million and three bidders were still competing for the work when it reached $39.5 million. Two bidders _ both anonymous and on the telephone _ drove the price higher until the final bid was cast.

Works by Rene Magritte, Amedeo Modigliani, Paul Cezanne, Fernand Leger and Andy Warhol were also scheduled for sale at Christie’s auction house.

``Chateau Noir,″ a 1904 Cezanne landscape in green and blue, was expected to sell for $6 million to $8 million. Leger’s ``Composition,″ filled with powerful primary colors, angular lines and rounded forms, was estimated at $5 million to $7 million.

``Standing Nude,″ which Modigliani painted in 1917 and 1918, shows a woman with reddish hair and blue eyes holding a sheet around her legs. Christie’s expected it to sell for $8 million to $10 million. Another Modigliani, ``The Servant with Striped Apron,″ was estimated at $3.5 million to $4.5 million.

Twenty-five Magrittes from the collection of the artist’s lawyer were up for sale. Among them was one of Magritte’s most famous paintings, the 1964 ``Son of Man,″ which shows a man in a red tie and dark bowler hat with an apple in front of his face. It was estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

``Personal Values,″ a 1952 Magritte which depicts an oversized comb, shaving brush, and wine goblet in a bedroom with the sky painted on its walls, was estimated at $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

The works were collected by Harry Torczyner, a lawyer and friend of Magritte who helped promote the painter’s work.

Also scheduled for sale Thursday were several well-known American Pop works by Andy Warhol. They included ``Orange Marilyn,″ from Warhol’s first Marilyn Monroe series, painted shortly after the actress’s death and estimated at $2.8 million to $3.5 million.

``Triple Elvis,″ which Warhol based on an Elvis Presley publicity photo, was expected to sell for $1.8 million to $2.5 million. ``Red Liz,″ his 1962 portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, had a pre-sale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The Van Gogh self-portrait, intense and haunting, was said to be one of the artist’s most powerful works.

``This painting has some of the highest level of technical command and emotional and psychological characteristics of Van Gogh,″ said Corroon. ``His eyes are so filled with emotion that they just have this depth and intensity and really show what was going on in his interior life at that time.″

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