Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern Art Evening sale on May 3 in New York starred Jeune Tahitienne, an exquisite sculpture carved during Paul Gauguin's first trip to Tahiti between 1890 and 1893.
It is the only fully-worked bust portrait that Gauguin is known to have created, and counts among the artist's finest sculptures in private hands.
Sotheby's Hong Kong and London galleries put the work on view in April, which was the first time it has been seen by the public in 50 years.
Months after returning to Paris in 1894, Gauguin presented this sculpture to Jeanne Fournier, the 10-year-old daughter of critic and collector Jean Dolent, having promised to bring her a gift from the tropics. In 1961, Fournier entrusted its sale to Father Celas Rzewuski, a member of the Dominican Order, who in turn consigned it to Sotheby's in London, where it was purchased by the present owner.
The work was expected to create a stir and it did not disappoint, achieving a World Record price for a sculpture by the artist at $11.3m. This was within the estimate that the auction house had predicted, reflecting their enormous confidence in the piece. No doubt it will prove to be an excellent investment.