A small Lucian Freud painting described as an “indisputable masterpiece” sold for more than £3m when it went under the hammer at auction.
Boy’s Head was bought by an anonymous bidder for £3,177,250.
But the work – which depicts Charlie Lumley, Freud’s neighbour and one of his most recognisable subjects – did not meet pre-sale estimates, which had suggested it could go for as much as £4m.
The work, painted in 1952, shows the subject’s head supported by his hand. It led a Sotheby’s sales evening which saw one private collection go for a combined total of £39,456,950, in an auction of 20th-century Italian art.
This was in line with pre-sale estimates which suggested the works could reach between £34,982,000 and £48,338,000.
The private collection included Alberto Burri’s Combustione Legno of 1957, which set a new record for the artist at auction. The work, which was estimated before the sale to fetch between £800,000 and £1,200,000, drew interest from more than five bidders and finally also sold for £3.1m.