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Picasso's daughter will test subdued art market

A PORTRAIT by Pablo Picasso of his daughter Maya when she was two-and-a-half years old is expected to fetch US$16-US$24 million at Sotheby's impressionist and modern art auction in New York next month.

Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti's 1951 bronze "Le Chat," which has not appeared at auction for 34 years, is also expected to be a highlight of the May 5 sale.

The auction is seen as the next big test for the art market, which has recently seen prices for artworks by top artists fall significantly during the global credit crunch.

Picasso's 1938 work "La fille de l'artiste a deux ans et demi avec un bateau" has never been auctioned before and was in the artist's personal collection for 35 years until his death in 1973, suggesting it was among the Spanish master's favorites.

Emmanuel Di-Donna, Sotheby's vice chairman of impressionist and modern art, said Picasso painted the picture "only months after his harrowing 'Guernica,'" his portrayal of the 1937 bombing of a Spanish town during the civil war.

"This life-affirming portrait reflects the great joy that Maya brought into the artist's life, even on the eve of the Second World War."

Maya, daughter of Marie-Therese Walter, is depicted holding a toy boat.


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