Celebrated Manet portrait headed to NYC auction

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NEW YORK (AP) — A celebrated portrait by Edouard Manet of a Parisian actress in a fancy dress and bonnet is heading to auction and could set a record for the artist.

The French impressionist artist's widely acclaimed painting "Spring," presented at the Paris Salon of 1882, is estimated to bring up to $35 million on Nov. 5 at Christie's. It has been in the same American collection for over a century and on loan at the National Gallery of Art for the last two decades.

Often called "the first artist of the modern era," Manet painted actress Jeanne Demarsy in 1881 as an allegory of spring exquisitely attired in a floral dress and bonnet and holding a lacy parasol against a background of rhododendrons.

"Spring" was widely acclaimed during the lifetime of Manet, one of the leading artists of the impressionist movement famous for his portraits and scenes from everyday life.

"The appearance of a Manet of this importance to the market is extremely rare and very exciting to collectors from every part of the globe," said Brooke Lampley, senior vice president of Christie's impressionist and modern art.

The portrait has a presale estimate of $25 million to $35 million. The current Manet auction record is $33.2 million, achieved in 2010 for his "Self Portrait With a Palette."

"It's significant because it is a very charming and beautiful work by Manet. It's very much a 19th-century theme," said David Nash of the Madison Avenue and Chelsea art gallery Mitchell-Innes & Nash. "Manet is famous for being the painter of modern life in Paris."

Manet had intended to depict four allegorical works of the four seasons but only completed "Spring" and "Autumn." He died in 1883 at 51.

The first owner of the work was Manet's friend, the journalist Antonin Proust. It later was in the collections of the operatic baritone and important impressionist collector J.B Faure and French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel, who sold it to a private collector in 1909 where it remained.

Christie's is exhibiting the painting in Hong Kong, London and Paris before the sale.

"We expect the diverse interest in this work to herald the continued interest in impressionism," Lampley said.

Proceeds will benefit a private American foundation that supports environmental, public health and other causes.

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