A painting attributed to 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer sold at an auction in London for $10.7 million (6.2 million pounds) on Tuesday. "Saint Praxedis," which depicts the female Christian saint, comes with a dramatic back story, including a debate over whether it was actually created by Vermeer.
The sale was part of a Christie's auction on Tuesday of Old Master and British works of art that brought in a total of $77.1 million in sales.
Christie's had estimated that the Vermeer would sell for between $10.3 million and $13.7 million.
"Saint Praxedis" was sold from the collection of the late Barbara Piasecka Johnson, the Polish-born domestic who became the wife of J. Seward Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson family fortune. Her inheritance of hundreds of millions of dollars from her late husband was bitterly contested by his children from his earlier marriages.
One of his children was Seward Johnson, a sculptor who created the "Forever Marilyn" statue that was a tourist attraction in Palm Springs.
Barbara Piasecka Johnson, who died in 2013, was passionate about art, and she helped to add to her husband's personal collection. She acquired the "Saint Praxedis" painting in 1987, a few years after her husband's death.
Christie's said the sale of the Vermeer will benefit the Barbara Piasecka Johnson Foundation, a charitable organization. The auction house has said it will offer for sale a number of works from her collection in the days ahead.
The painting, which dates from 1655, has been the subject of debate over its authenticity. Some dissenters have cited the artwork's religious subject matter, which would be an anomaly for the usually secular Vermeer.
Christie's has stated that analysis conducted by Holland's Rijksmuseum, in association with the Free University, Amsterdam, endorses Vermeer's authorship of the work.
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