The Duet, a masterpiece by Gerrit van Honthorst that was seized by Nazis from a Jewish art collector, has set a new world record for the artist at Christie's Old Masters and 19th Century Art.
Selling on June 5, the work originates from the 17th century and was once part of Catherine the Great's art adviser's collection, as well as that of Russia's Heritage Museum.
Originally estimated at $2m-3m, it sold for $3.4m to become the most valuable example of Van Honthorst's work.
Van Honthorst is best known for his lively renditions of nocturnal revelry, with this piece depicting a man and woman - presumed to be a courtesan - standing over an open book and singing by candlelight.
First belonging to the empress' art adviser, Count Alexander Stroganov of St Petersburg, the painting was eventually passed to the Hermitage Museum before being nationalised following the Russian revolution.
It was then auctioned by the Soviet regime in 1931 and bought by Jewish collector Bruno Spiro.
The painting was seized by the Nazis during the second world war, where it passed through several important German collections before being bought by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
After learning of its origins, the Montreal museum finally returned the masterpiece to Spiro's relatives in April this year.
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