NEW YORK —
A radiant masterpiece by Pablo Picasso from the 1950s will lead an auction in May where it could top $140 million.
"Women of Algiers (Version O)" will be offered at Christie's on May 11.
The vibrantly colorful 1955 painting features a scantily attired female in the foreground amid a jumble of smaller female nudes. The central figure is Picasso's muse Jacqueline Roque, who became his second wife in 1961.
The oil on canvas was part of a 15-work series Picasso created between 1954 and 1955 that was inspired by "Women of Algiers in their Apartment" by Eugene Delacroix, an 1834 work Picasso greatly admired that hangs in the Louvre in Paris.
The hefty pre-sale estimate hovers near the current record for any artwork sold at auction, held by Francis Bacon's triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud." It sold at Christie's for $142.4 million in 2013.
Christie's did not reveal the seller, but said the collector acquired the painting in 1997 for $31.9 million when Christie's sold the collection of noted New York collectors Victor and Sally Ganz, who at one time owned all 15 works in the series.
"One can arguably say that this is the single most important painting by Picasso to remain in private hands," said Olivier Camu, Christie's deputy chairman of impressionist and modern art.
The work has been in several major museum retrospectives in the 1950s and 1960s. More recently it appeared in exhibitions at the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Britain.
"Women of Algiers (Version O)" will be offered with a group of two dozen other blue chip works created between 1902 and the end of the 20th century in a stand-alone sale called "Looking Forward to the Past."
In May 2010, Christie's set an auction record for any work by Picasso when it sold his 1932 painting "Nude, Green Leave and Bust" of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter for $106.5 million.