Auctions this month: Pablo Picasso’s Femme a la Montre, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two) and more

We keep you up-to-date on the hottest lots under the hammer

Auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York for US$139,363,500

Pablo Picasso’s Femme a la Montre

Behold the second-most expensive Picasso ever sold and 2023’s most expensive artwork to be sold at auction. Femme a la Montre (Italian for ‘Woman with a Watch) is an ode to the artist’s mistress and muse Marie-Thérèse Walter and was completed in 1932, a period his biographer John Richardson describes as a “year of wonders”. The 130cm by 97cm oil-on-canvas lot is a fantastic testament to the artistic impulse behind the Surrealist notion of amour fou or obsessional desire. Besides being an unabashed monument to his mistress at a time when he was already married, the canvas is notable for its emergence when Picasso’s artistic relevance was questioned as emerging talents such as Henri Matisse became the toast of the town.

Auctioned by RM Sotheby’s in New York on 8 December. Price upon request

1993 Bugatti EB110 Super Sport Prototype

RM Sotheby’s will close out the year with an auction simply and emphatically christened New York. The straightforward directness of it all belies the fact that the world’s most desirable luxury automobiles will be showcased therein. Amongst them is this lot, an ultra-rare and monumental find of which only three were ever produced. Equipped with the engine from Bugatti’s world speed record-setting EB110, this breath-taking ode to refinement in speed is also the only EB110 prototype with dual fuel tanks with single fuel filler system, carbon-fibre engine lid cover and revised gear selector. At the time of cataloguing, this variant was rated amongst the finest and most distinct EB110s in the history of the marque.

Auctioned by Sotheby’s in New York for US$42 million

It is no accident that one of the most valuable self-portraits to ever hit auction is by the inimitable Jean-Michel Basquiat.

At Sotheby’s stacked Contemporary Evening Auction, which honours pioneering works from the 20th Century, the 2.5-metre-tall acrylic-and-oilstick-on-canvas painting, fetched US$42 million, once bidding closed on 16 November. Completed in Los Angeles in 1982, the towering opus is believed by Basquiat scholars to be reflective of the artist’s perception of his nascent fame. The jarring effect of the harsh presentation of the black, green, beige, blue, white and red colours inheres to Basquiat’s commentary of his public perception as a ‘heel’ in the 1980s West Coast art world.

Before its sale, the work resided in the private collection of Belgian gallerist and collector Stéphane Janssen, an early champion of Basquiat’s who received the painting in 1985. It was last seen in New York in 1999, when it was sold through Christie’s for US$772, 500.

Auctioned by Phillips in Geneva for US$392,121

Panerai’s one-off Radiomir Guido Panerai & Figlio

History was made at Phillips’ recent Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII. Panerai presented a hitherto unseen iteration of its Radiomir Guido Panerai & Figlio reference, modelled after the iconic Ref. 3646 from 1961. Some of its notable features include its Platinumtech casing, a harder and scratch-resistant material exclusively made by Panerai, solid welded lugs, 47-milimetre sandwich dial, gold hands and domed sapphire crystal. A vintage oiled calf leather strap in a brown palette, with gold topstitching that references the indices and handset on the dial completes the watch’s dashing looks.

Auctioned by Christie’s in Geneva for US$43.8 million

The Bleu Royal

Seven minutes. That was all it took for the Bleu Royal to sell for the remarkable price of US$43.8 million, cementing it as 2023’s priciest jewel to be sold at auction. The seven-minute bidding period ended swiftly in Geneva, on 7 November, by a private collector whose winning bid is indicative of the jewel’s essence as the largest internally flawless fancy vivid blue diamond in existence. Set in a ring, the 17.6-carat stone is amongst the rarest to ever be unearthed. According to Max Fawcett, head of Christie’s jewellery department in Geneva, the stone owes its premium value to its deep rich blue colour and unmodified pear brilliant shape.

Auctioned by Bonhams in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire. Price upon request

Ducati 916 Senna II

From 1-11 December, Bonhams will corral a curation of rare motorcycles for its December Motorcycle Sale. Of the 25 lots, the Ducati 916 Senna II is undoubtedly amongst the most sought after. Sixty-second in a production run of 300, the steed hails from the Senna class in Ducati’s stable, an ode to the late Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, who was also a long-time friend of the marque’s Castiglioni brothers. Superior to Ducati’s Strada base model, the Senna debuted in 1995 and boasted a dark grey colour scheme, 916SPS chassis and running gear, and Pankl con-rods inside the engine. This particular model displays a total of 8,855 kilometres on the odometer and was fitted with new timing belts in 2022.

Auctioned by Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas for US$15,625

Gene Simmons Stage-played and signed Punisher electric bass guitar

This jet-black electric bass guitar, dubbed the ‘Punisher’, was designed by KISS frontman Gene Simmons himself in 1992 to definitively address and eliminate an issue he had with other basses, that of the neck being buried in the body. With his bespoke creation, he has been able to hit the high notes with an unencumbered verve that has blessed the rock canon to this day. The bass is also accompanied by its original hard case and signed certificate of authenticity in the form of a gold record. Autographed and played during the End of the Road World Tour, which is the band’s final concert tour, the instrument is hand-inscribed with the following text by Simmons: “Rock & Roll All Nite / And Party Every Day – / You Drive Us Wild We’ll / Drive You Crazy – This is a Stage / Played Bass – KISS”.