An impression of Edvard Munchs controversial work Madonna has sold for an amazing £1,252,000 at Bonhams
twice its lower estimate of £500,000. This makes it the most expensive print ever sold in the UK and the second most expensive print in the world. Another Munch image, Vampire II, sold in Oslo in 2007 at the height of the market for around £1,256,000.
Thought to be the first hand coloured version of this iconic image, the print shows the Madonna in yellow and white set against a halo of blue, green and red. The central figure is surrounded by a border containing spermatozoa and a foetus in a vivid blood red.
The model for the Madonna was Munchs mistress, Dagny Juel, a femme fatale who, after numerous ill-fated affairs, was shot dead by a young lover in a Tblisi hotel aged just 33. Munch produced the image in seven different states between 1895 and 1902 and this impression is from the very first state. It is in excellent condition and had been in the same family for over 100 years.
Bonhams Head of Prints, Robert Kennan said, It has been a real privilege selling such a wonderful image and it fully deserves to have achieved such a fantastic price.
Munch was responsible for some of the most radical and experimental advances in printmaking and this impression dates from the time when he turned increasingly towards graphic art as a means of expression. Only a few hand-coloured impressions of Madonna are known to exist, most of which are now in public collections, and it is very rare for a print of such art historical importance to appear on the open market.