Foujita
La fête d’anniversaire by Léonard Foujita (1886-1968) sold for a premium-inclusive £7,096,250 at Bonhams on October 11.

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The price, several times the estimate of £900,000-1.3m is a new auction record for the artist.  

The 2ft 4in x 3ft 4in (76cm x 1.02m) painting of a riotous birthday party populated by a menagerie of animals was one in a series of works Foujita painted in New York in 1949, in homage to the French 17th century writer Jean de la Fontaine. In the background to La fête d’anniversaire, painted in June that year, Foujita references his own work, hanging a charcoal study for one of his celebrated Nu on the wall behind the patriarchal and matriarchal figures of the dog and chicken.

It seems that Foujita held this work in great esteem, creating a bespoke frame on the theme of a birthday party carved with spoons and bottle opener – something he did for only a select few works.

The work was selected for Foujita’s solo 1949 exhibition at Mathias Komor Gallery and then travelled to Paris for his important solo exhibition at the Galerie Paul Pétrides in 1950, where it was purchased by a private French collector on the final day of the exhibition.

It has remained in private hands since then and not seen in public for almost 70 years.