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The 2ft 6in x 2ft 3in (77 x 69cm) oil on canvas from 1927 was one of six portraits of pastry chefs made by the artist and came to auction from a European vendor who had acquired it from the Lefevre Gallery in London in 1977.

Estimated at $16m-22m, it had been subject to a third party guarantee but the pitch looked rather punchy in comparison to previous prices recorded at auction for Soutine.

On the night of the sale on May 8, it drew interest from a single bidder on the phone and sold on low estimate at $16m (£10.7m), setting a record for the artist nevertheless. The buyer was believed to be from Asia.

This result surpassed the previous high for the artist - the £7.8m seen for L'homme au foulard rouge sold at Sotheby's London in February 2007.

The sale followed the recent exhibition of works by the artist at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

Chagall Circus

Drawing more competition at Christie's was Les Trois Acrobates by Marc Chagall (1887-1985), a 3ft 10in x 2ft 11in (1.16m x 88cm) oil on canvas from 1926.

Although consigned from the same source, here the $6m-9m estimate was not deemed excessive as three bidders pursued the colourful figurative picture and it was finally knocked down at $11.4m (£7.65m) to another anonymous telephone bidder. It was the highest price for the artist at auction in the last five years.

Overall, the sale raised a hammer total of $137.5m (£92.3m) with 44 of the 47 lots find buyers (94%).

The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%.