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Sydney University gets mystery Picasso gift

27 april 2011, 15:27
A mystery American-based donor has handed the University of Sydney a Pablo Picasso painting worth up to US$20 million on the condition it is sold to fund scientific research, AFP reports.

"Jeune Fille Endormie", painted in 1935, is set to be auctioned in London on June 21 at Christie's, which estimates it will fetch between 9 and 12 million pounds (US$15-20 million).

Giovanna Bertazzoni, director of impressionist and modern art at the auction house, said Wednesday she expected keen interest from collectors in Asia, the Middle East and Russia, as well as Europe and the United States.

"This is an absolute jewel of a painting by one of the great artistic geniuses of Western art and we are pleased to be able to support the University of Sydney by offering it at auction," she said.

University vice-chancellor Michael Spence said the donor had personally flown to Sydney to present the painting, whose title can be translated as "Young Girl Asleep".

"In an extraordinary act of generosity, an overseas donor who wishes to remain anonymous was prepared to fly to Australia to personally give this painting to the university," said Spence.

"This very generous and far-sighted gift is recognition of the international standing and reputation of the University of Sydney."

Spence said any funds raised would mostly go towards funding a new centre for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The painting is a portrait of the Spanish-born artist's lover Marie-Therese Walter, whom he met when he was 45 and she was 17 outside the Galeries Lafayette in Paris in 1927, while he was still married to Olga Khoklova.

Last year, a 1932 portrait of Walter by Picasso, "Nu au Plateau de Sculpteur" ("Nude, Green Leaves and Bust"), set a world record when it was snapped up by a mystery bidder for US$106.5 million dollars.

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