Offered at an auction held by Ader (28% buyer’s premium inc vat) in Paris, the bidding battle sent the final price to €220,000 (£188,035), over double the €80,000-100,000 estimate.
Blanche is known as the artist famous for portraying many of the most prominent names in Parisian arts and society in the Belle Epoque period of the late 19th and early 20th century.
Artist and composer were friends, having met around 1894.
Blanche painted this portrait of Debussy in summer of 1902, the year in which the composer wrote Pélias and Mélisande.
The 3ft 1in x 2ft 5in (95 x 74cm) oil on canvas is dedicated, dated and signed lower right: à Claude Debussy/1902/J.E. Blanche.
He also painted another smaller bust study version the following year executed en plein air in a heavy rain shower (Debussy’s piano piece Jardins sous la pluie from his Estampes series is dedicated to Blanche).
The portrait offered at Ader is a well-known work featuring regularly in exhibitions, from one held at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts in 1903, the year after its creation, through to exhibitions in 2012 in Paris and Tokyo as part of Debussy, la musique et les arts.
It had a provenance to the Fromont collection and the collection of Jean Jobert (1883-1957) and his daughter Denise Jobert-Georges.
On the day of the auction the painting was contested by French, US and English bidders, a mix of enthusiasts for art and music, but in the end was secured by right of pre-emption at the fall of the hammer by a French institution: the Cité de Musique – Philharmonie de Paris.
£1 = €1.17