Norman Rockwell's Two Plumbers brings $15 million at Sotheby's
A beloved painting by Norman Rockwell topped the latest auction of American Art at Sotheby's this week.
'Two Plumbers' had originally appeared as the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on June 2, 1951.
The painting had originally been estimated to sell for $5 - $7 million, but a fierce seven-minute battle between two telephone bidders saw the final price rise to $14,975,000.
The work last hit the auction block at Sotheby's in 1996, when it sold for $882,000, which at the time was an auction record for a Norman Rockwell painting.
It had since spent the past two decades in the same private collection, during which time the market for the artist's work has soared.
The painting was one of Rockwell's most humorous images, depicting two blue collar plumbers spraying perfume in a fancy bathroom, in a manner recalling the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.
"Though a generation of Americans all likely have their own favorite Rockwell, Two Plumbers is undoubtedly among his most beloved images," said the auction house.
"Painted at the height of the artist’s career, it represents the very best of Norman Rockwell: a work that is seemingly simple in subject yet extraordinarily complex in design and execution and maintains its charm and appeal even today.
"Ultimately, works such as Two Plumbers not only demonstrate Rockwell’s rare gift for storytelling, but also the genius with which he kept a massive and diverse audience engaged for more than half a century."
Another Rockwell painting, First Flight (Old Woman Riding Airplane), also achieved a seven-figure sum at the auction, selling for $1,632,500.
The current auction record for a Norman Rockwell painting was set in 2013, when his 1951 Saturday Evening Post cover 'Saying Grace' sold at Sotheby's for $46 million.
According to reports, the winning bidder was Star Wars creator George Lucas, who plans to exhibit the painting in his planned Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles.
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