Prints of Munch's controversial work Madonna are not uncommon on the market but this example was an early hand-coloured impression of the first state, signed by the artist and dated 1895.
The artist painted six oils on canvas of Madonna between 1894 and 1895 the model being his mistress Dagny Juel who was later shot dead by a younger lover in a Tblisi hotel aged just 33.
Munch then produced around 150 prints of the image in seven different states between 1895 and 1902. However, only a few examples of the first state are known to exist and most of these are now in public collections with none having appeared on the open market in at least the last two decades.
The 23 1/2 x 15 3/4in (60 x 44cm) lithograph at Bonhams, which had been in the same family for over 100 years and was in excellent condition, therefore represented an exceptional opportunity of collectors. It came to auction from the collection of the abstract expressionist artist Frank (Albert) Avray Wilson having previously been in the collection of his wife Ivy Eckbo, the adopted daughter of Eivind Eckbo, a Norwegian businessman and philanthropist who owned several Munch lithographs.
Estimated at £500,000-700,000 at Bonhams' specialist print sale in New Bond Street, it was knocked down at £1.1m to a private buyer from the US, roughly equalling the record price for a Munch print made by a version of another iconic image, Vampire II, which sold at Oslo saleroom Grev Wedels Plass Auksjoner in November 2007 for 11.8m Norwegian Kroner.
A version of Madonna from 1902 (the seventh state) sold at Sotheby's in March 2006 at £340,000.
The buyer's premium was 20/12%
By Alex Capon