The highly anticipated sale of Vladimir Tretchikoff's Chinese Girl has seen the much-reproduced image sell for £982,050 ($1.5m).
In doing so, the original 1950 work achieved an outstanding 96.4% increase on its £500,000 estimate at the Bonhams London sale (March 20). This eclipses the previous auction record for Tretchikoff's work by 191.1%.
The previous record was also set at Bonhams, when Portrait of Lemka (Red Jacket) sold for £337,250 ($541,349) in October 2012.
Bonhams have confirmed that the piece will be returning to South Africa for display at the chairman of Graff Diamonds International Laurence Graff's estate near Stellenbosch.
The BBC confirmed Chinese Girl as the best-selling print in history in its 2006 obituary of the artist, although as early as 1961 a BBC presenter was quoted as saying: "Which painting do you think is the most famous in the world? Before you answer, let me tell you you're wrong. It's the green-faced Chinese Girl by Tretchikoff."
Boris Gorelik, a renowned Tretchikoff scholar, explained the piece's appeal prior to the sale.
"Take the 'Chinese Girl' for example: millions of people - perhaps your parents or grandparents - bought a lithograph of this painting, hung it on their wall and admired it for years, if not decades," he said.
"Maybe even you grew up looking at it. And today you can get the real thing - the original canvas."
Vladimir Tretchkoff (1913-2006) was a Russian-born artist who settled in South Africa. Chinese Girl depicts Monika Sing-Lee, a laundrette worker who caught the artist's eye in Sea Point, Cape Town and was asked to model for him. Sing-Lee's identity was revealed in in 2010 in Boris Gorelik's book, Incredible Tretchikoff.
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