LONDON (AFP) – A celebrated masterpiece by Pablo Picasso sold Wednesday at Christie's auction house in London for 34.8 million pounds, in a sale that set a record for the amount of money made at a British art auction.
The "Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto" -- also known as "The Absinthe Drinker" -- is a 1903 work from the Spanish painter's Blue Period, and was sold for the equivalent of 51.6 million dollars or 41.9 million euros.
Its expected sale price was between 30 and 40 million pounds.
Wednesday's sale -- which also included works by Gustav Klimt, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse -- fetched a total of 152.6 million pounds, the highest amount ever at a British art auction.
It broke the previous record of 147 million pounds set at a Sotheby's sale in February.
"The Portrait of Angel Fernandez de Soto" -- which was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder -- depicts one of Picasso's artist companions, leaning on a table with a glass of absinthe and smoke curling from his pipe.
The painting was sold by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's foundation, a charity which focuses on the promotion of arts, culture and heritage in Britain. It acquired the work for 29.2 million dollars in New York in 1995.
The second most expensive work at the auction was a portrait of a woman by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, "Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)", which sold for 18.8 million pounds.