Jacques Loysel’s La Grande Nevrose (1896) was the undisputed highlight of Sotheby’s Erotic Art sale on February 16 in London.
The work soared past its estimate of £180,000 ($282,654) to take £1.8m ($2.9m), a new record for a work by the artist.
Loysel kept La Grande Nevrose in his studio until he died
Loysel (1867-1925) was a little known French sculptor who studied under Henri Chapu.
The present work, which shows a female nude writhing in ecstasy, is his masterpiece.
Loysel was so enamoured with it that he never sold it. It remained in his studio until his death in 1925.
Sotheby’s comments: “The fascinating ambiguity of Loysel’s masterpiece lies in the oscillation between carnal ecstasy and painful exaltation.
“Loysel was ostensibly depicting the theme of hysteria, as this was an unparalleled opportunity to represent a human body in total tension, yet its manifestation is of an eminently sensual character.”
Sarah Bernhardt’s Ophelia (1880) also set an artist record, achieving £308,750 ($484,830) against a valuation of £70,000 ($109,921).
Sarah Bernhardt went on to play Ophelia in a production of Hamlet in 1886
Bernhardt (1844-1923) was both one of the most famous actors of her era and a hugely talented sculptor.
She travelled the world as a performer and during the early 1900s found herself starring in some of the first silent films.
She hadn’t played Ophelia at the time the marble was created, although she did take on the role a few years later.
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