The decoder: Nurse, by Roy Lichtenstein

The painting claimed a price of Dh350,270,512 at a recent Christie's auction. Here’s what makes it so special.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) painted Nurse in 1964. Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd
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The painting was created in 1964 at the height of American artist Roy Lichtenstein’s career. The artwork is widely regarded as an icon of the pop art genre and features the artist’s signature Ben-Day dots.

The image, which is set on a square canvas measuring four feet by four feet and portrays the quintessential Lichtenstein heroine, was taken from a comic romance novel from the early 1960s. Five decades after Nurse was painted, there's still no agreement on exactly which novel it is based on.

Lichtenstein, a master of parody, arrived at his classic depiction of women after dabbling in the genres of cubism and abstract expressionism in the 1940s and 1950s. His first jump into pop art was in 1961 with the painting Girl with Ball, which is currently hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

A lone telephone bidder bought Nurse, which was originally titled Frightenedness. Previously, it had been in some of the most important collections of pop art, including the Kraushar Collection and the collection of Karl Ströher, a German industrialist whose family owned the Wella haircare brand.

The painting was sold during The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale, a Christie’s auction held in New York City, and surpassed its estimated selling price, which was about US$80 million (Dh294m).

Also sold during the auction was a painting by Amedeo Modigliani titled Nu Couché. The painting was purchased by Chinese collector Liu Yiqian, a taxi driver turned billionaire, for $170.4m (Dh625.8m). The sale set a new world record as the second-highest price ever achieved at auction for a work of art.

Read this and more stories in Luxury magazine, out with The National on Thursday, December 10.