The £4m punch from a taxi driver

A contender for the most extraordinary art sale of early-2010 will go under the hammer at Sotheby's on February 10.

Self-Portrait With a Black Eye is remarkable on two levels.

Self-Portrait With a Black Eye, estimated
at £3-4m

Firstly, because this painting - daubed by none other than Lucian Freud - has remained unknown for the three decades.

Instead, the 1978 work has been in the same collection for 30 years - never publicly exhibited, and completely unrecorded in the masses of published literature about Freud.

It and three other Freud works, from the same private collection, will auction at Sotheby's.

Even more remarkable are the circumstances in which the painting came about.

The painting's eponymous black eye was allegedly the result of a fight between Freud, aged 60 when it was painted, and a taxi driver.

Today, the work is being heralded as another testament to Freud's status as "the greatest living realist painter" (according to art expert Robert Hughes).

Sotheby's have estimated the work - billed as a work of "psychological intensity" and as the most important Freud self-portrait ever to come to market - at £4m.

It is expected to beat the £3.7m record for a Freud self-portrait set in 2005.

For now, the highest priced Freud painting remains his 1995 work Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, bought for a record £17m by Roman Abramovich.


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