“La Jeune fille sophistiquee (Portrait de Nancy Cunard)” sculpted by renowned Romanian artist Constantin Brâncuși, a 31-inch-tall piece estimated at more than $70 million, is put up for sale at Christie’s Impressionist and modern art auction in New York on May 15, Bloomberg.com informs.
The American couple Elizabeth and Frederick Stafford was in Paris in 1955 when they bought the work directly from the artist for about USD 5,000. Elizabeth was a young woman from New Orleans, US, while her husband Frederick was a Jewish immigrant from Romania.
Sculpted in 1932, the work features the head of a woman with a ponytail. The sculpture was inspired by the blue-eyed English heiress, a civil rights champion and wartime journalist who played tennis with Ernest Hemingway and was a muse to Surrealist artist Andre Breton.
Christie’s estimate that “Portrait de Nancy Cunard” will break the record set last year by Brâncuși, when one of his works, “La muse endormie” (1913) had been sold last year with USD 57.4 million, which was an auction record for the Romanian-born artist.
According to Elizabeth and Frederick Stafford’s daughter, her parents visited Brâncuși’s studio in Paris on a tip from Frederick’s Romanian friend and they bought the sculpture as a gift for Elizabeth’s 28th birthday.
“He lived like a hermit and looked a little bit like a saint with a long, white beard,” Elizabeth Stafford used to describe the artist in a 1966 interview.
The sculpture stayed in their home until 1978, when the couple loaned it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it remained for the next 40 years, occasionally leaving for other exhibitions. “They were very proud of it,” Alexandra Stafford said. “It was the star of their collection.”
As Elizabeth Stafford died in January, now her heirs want to sell Brâncuși’s sculpture and give part of the money to charitable causes.