A Lucian Freud portrait of his former lover and muse, the food writer Janey Longman, is slated to hit the auction block for the first time at Christie’s London this March. The painting, titled Girl with Eyes Closed (1986–87), was acquired in 1987 by a British collector and is expected to fetch £10 million–£15 million ($13.4 million–$20 million).
Girl with Eyes Closed has been in the same collection since it was purchased via a deal brokered by Freud’s longtime London dealer, James Kirkman, before the artist gained representation with Acquavella Galleries in 1993. The piece is being sold in its original frame without a guarantee.
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Capturing an intimate moment, the painting depicts Longman lying on her back with her eyes closed in Freud’s signature impasto. “The dexterous handling of the paint sumptuously brings every detail of the sitter’s body into sharp focus,” Katharine Arnold, head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s Europe, said in a statement. “The gentle framing of her pose within the composition seems to invite the viewer closer still, a witness to this moment of contemplation.”
The portrait was included in Freud’s 1987 retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., as well as a major survey at the Museo Correr in Venice in 2005. As part of the auction with Christie’s, it is expected to travel to New York and Hong Kong before being exhibited in London.
Girl with Eyes Closed is not the only painting by Freud to feature Longman, who was also the subject of two other paintings by him, Naked Girl (1985–86) and Two Women (1992).
Freud’s female nudes have previously brought him some of his top prices at auction. In 2015, Benefits Supervisor Resting (1994) sold for £35.6 million ($56.2 million), and in 2008, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich purchased Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) for £17 million ($33.6 million). If it sells within its estimate, Girl with Closed Eyes won’t outpace those paintings, but it will be one of the most highly anticipated lots at the sale—which, as it happens, will coincide with the centenary of Freud’s birth.