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Sir Joshua Reynolds Painting Sold

November 30, 2001

LONDON (AP) _ A painting by 18th century portrait artist Sir Joshua Reynolds has sold at auction for $14.6 million, Sotheby’s said.

``Portrait of Omai,″ which depicts a Polynesian youth who was feted as a noble savage by London society, achieved the highest auction price ever for a Reynolds portrait, the auction house said. It was the most expensive painting sold in London this year.

The portrait also fetched the second highest price ever for a British picture at auction. The most expensive was Constable’s ``The Lock,″ which was sold for $15.2 million in 1990, the auction house said.

``It is by far the best and most important British picture to appear on the open market in my 25 years in the trade,″ said London art dealer Guy Morrison, who bought the painting Thursday.

``It is in beautiful condition and comes from an impeccable source,″ he added.

``Portrait of Omai″ is widely regarded as one of Reynolds’ greatest works. Its subject, Omai, was discovered by explorers on an island near Tahiti and brought back to England in 1774, where his exotic looks and refined manner caused a sensation.

He was granted an audience with King George III, invited to attend the state opening of Parliament and was a guest at literary soirees hosted by novelist Fanny Burney and writer Samuel Johnson.

The painting, which shows him standing in flowing robes, had been expected to bring $11.3 million.

It was sold by Simon Howard, the owner of Castle Howard, a stately home in northern England.

``We always believed that this was one of the greatest British pictures to come on the market in recent years, a fact reflected by today’s price,″ said David Morre-Gwyn, head of British pictures at Sotheby’s.

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