9 Feb 2011

Painting of Picasso's young lover sells for $40m

3:44 pm on 9 February 2011

A Picasso painting said to have contributed to the break-up of his marriage has fetched more than $US40 million at an auction in London.

The Spanish artist's wife Olga Khokhlova divorced him after reportedly seeing La Lecture at an exhibition and realising the facial features were not her own.

The masterpiece depicts Pisasso's secret lover, Marie-Therese Walter, who was 17 when Picasso, then 45, met her in Paris for the first time.

Their relationship was kept secret for many years because of her age and because the artist was married, the BBC reports.

Until La Lecture was painted, Ms Walter had only appeared in Picasso's works in code with her features often embedded in the background of other paintings.

Ms Walter later had a daughter, Maya, with Picasso and inspired a number of works including La Reve as well as Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, both painted in 1932.

The sale price at Sotheby's for La Lecture is considerably higher than expected and the buyer is anonymous.