A rare painting by German renaissance master Lucas Cranach, the Elder has fetched more than $14 million at auction in London overnight, overturning the painter's previous record.
Painted by the German master in Wittenberg around 1525-28, "La Bocca della Verità" (The Mouth of Truth) was one of the most significant works by Lucas Cranach, the Elder still in private hands.
The painting was sold overnight on Wednesday (08.07.15) in London by Sotheby's for over $14.4 million (13 million euros), smashing the upper estimate of around$12.4 million and nearly doubling the artist's previous record.
The oil on beechwood panel depicts the legendary la Bocca della Verità, a mask carved in marble at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome, which supposedly bites off the hand of those who lie. Cranach, the Elder's painting depicts the medieval legend of an adulterous empress, who manages to fool her husband during a trial of the mouth.
Lucas Cranach, the Elder, the most celebrated painter of his day, frequently painted mythological scenes, as well as religious and court motifs.
The painting was purchased by Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg - who famously conspired with Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, before being arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp - and remained in the family estate until the death of his daughter Astrid Gräfin von Hardenberg in February this year.
The sale comes in the wake of a pending legal battle in the United States over another of Lucas Cranach, the Elder's paintings, in which Marei von Saher is demanding the return of a 16th-century work depicting Adam and Eve - currently in the Norton Simon Museum collection in California, which acquired it in 1971.
The heiress claims that the painting was sold by her Dutch father-in-law, Jewish art dealer Jacques Goudstikker, under duress by the Nazis in 1940, and acquired by Hermann Göring at a fraction of its value.
The Norton Simon Museum's attempts to have von Saher's claim dismissed was denied by a US district court in April this year, although the case has yet to come to trial.
jgt/kbm (AP, dpa)