With buyer’s premium added, the price at Berlin saleroom Grisebach was €23.2m (£19.8m).
Painted during the Second World War, Selbstbildnis Gelb-Rosa (Self-Portrait in Yellow and Pink) overshot the €9.5m (£8.64m) for a Sino- Tibetan bronze of Vajrabhairava, dated 1473, that held the previous German auction high when it sold at Stuttgart auction house Nagel in June last year (see ATG No 2499).
The Beckmann painting was estimated at €20m-30m at Grisebach on December 1. A 3ft 1in × 22 in (95 × 56cm) oil on canvas from 1943, it was painted while the Expressionist artist was in exile in the Netherlands. He fled Germany in 1937 after the Nazi regime had branded his work as 'degenerate art'.
In all, he painted over 80 self-portraits, most of which are now owned by museums.
This one was given to his wife Quappi as a gift and it remained with the Beckmann family for more than 40 years until later entering a Swiss private collection from where it was consigned to auction for the first time.
Despite selling on low estimate, the sum achieved was the highest for any Beckmann self-portrait at auction, surpassing the $20.5m (£14.2m) for Self Portrait with Trumpet at Sotheby’s New York in 2001.
It was also the second-highest price for any work by the artist, behind only the £32m bid at Christie’s in London in 2017 for the monumental Hölle der Vögel (Birds’ Hell).
£1 = €1.17