One of Lucian Freud’s most famous paintings has sold for more than £16 million at auction.
Pregnant Girl depicts the artist’s 17-old lover Bernardine Coverley asleep while she was expecting their daughter Bella in the early 1960s.
Six bidders battled to secure the painting, which was expected to fetch between £7 million and £10 million, as the artwork went on sale at Sotheby’s in London.
Coverley was just 16 when she first met Freud, who was 37, in London’s Soho in 1959. They went on to have two children, Bella, now a renowned fashion designer, and Esther, an acclaimed novelist.
Bella, 54, said: “It must have been a very happy time in her life, being pregnant with the man she loved and him wanting her to be there and paint her. I think he was undoubtedly the love of her life.”
Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s senior international specialist in contemporary art, said: “This astonishingly beautiful painting embodies the profound bond between Lucian and the mother of his two daughters.
“There is arguably no other portrait by Freud that is more gripping, more tender, and more laden with such emotional depth.”
Freud, who died in 2011 aged 88, was the grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the brother of the late television personality Sir Clement Freud.
He was born in Berlin in 1922, but his Jewish family fled the city in 1933 and he become a British citizen in 1939.
The realist painter was educated at the Central School of Art, London, the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham and Goldsmiths College in London.
His record sale came in May last year when a life-sized nude was sold at auction in New York for £35.7 million.
The piece, Benefits Supervisor Resting, was one of four portraits Freud made of the ample-figured Sue Tilley.