An erotically charged Picasso oil painting of his mistress alongside tulips and fruit has sold for $US41.5 million ($A40m) on an otherwise anemic night for high-end art in New York.
“Nature morte aux tulipes,” painted in 1932, was the star of Sotheby's Impressionist and modern art sale in Manhattan on Thursday.
The pre-sale estimate for the work had been between $US35m and $US50m.
The painting depicts the head of Marie-Therese Walter, who was Picasso's lover and famous muse, poised over a suggestive flower arrangement.
Its sale was one of the few bright spots for Sotheby's, with 30 per cent of lots failing to sell and the total haul of the evening amounting to $US163m - below the low end of the overall $US169-245m estimate.
This followed a similar performance at the Christie's auction on Wednesday.
Another of the Marie-Therese series offered by Sotheby's, Femme a la fenetre (Marie-Therese), sold for $US17.2m, inside the $US15-20m estimate.Other successes included the $US12.1m paid for Champ de ble by Claude Monet.