Max Pechstein’s Selbstbildnis, liegend, €2.5m (£2.17m) at Lempertz.

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Before the original sale date, newspaper reports suggested that the painting was looted art, acquired under dubious circumstances in the 1930s. Lempertz could document that this was not the case.

In the interim, a solution was found that suited the vendor, the auction house and the descendants of the one-time owner, a German- Jewish doctor.

At the sale there was vigorous competition from German and Swiss collectors. The hammer fell at €2.5m (£2.17m), considerably more than the lower guide of €1.5m. The new owner is a German private collector.

Bacon lithographs

In a different league, but also worthy of note was the result on the following day, for a set of three very large lithographs by Francis Bacon (1909-92), each measuring 5ft 10in x 3ft 11in (1.7 x 1.2m).

As on many occasions, Bacon revisited an earlier composition and created a new, adapted version.

In 1944, he had painted Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in oil which now belong to the Tate Gallery. In typically drastic style he replaced the grieving disciples with screaming beasts, his comment on the horrors of war.

In 1988 he returned to the motif which he recreated in a new oil version with a blood red background. Its title Deuxième version du triptyque 1944 (Second Version, Triptych) was self-explanatory.

In the following year, he allowed the revised motif to be created in two series of coloured lithographs, one much smaller, one almost as large as the original paintings.

Lempertz was able to offer a rare set of the larger version, which was furthermore one of the artist’s proofs, before the edition of 30 plus 13 ‘hors commerce’. Estimated at €20,000, the set went on to sell for €60,000 (£52,175) to a European collector.