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Manet's 'Le Printemps' poised to reach record auction price

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Edouard Manet's 1881 celebrated portrait "Le Printemps," which has been owned by the same family for a century, will be auctioned for the first time this year and could fetch up to $35 million, Christie's auction house said on Friday.

The rare profile painting of the young Parisian actress Jeanne Demarsy, one of Manet's most famous works, will be among the highlights of Christie's Impressionist and Modern Art sale in New York on November 5.

The sale follows Christie's best spring auctions in years and a boom in the global art and antique market - sales last year rose 8 percent to $65.9 billion, the highest level since 2007, according to the latest report from the European Fine Art Foundation.

If sold for $35 million, the high pre-sale estimate, "Le Printemps" would surpass the record $33.2 million paid for Manet's "Self Portrait with a Palette" in London four years ago.

Adrien Meyer, international director at Christie's, said the painting is one of the last museum-quality works by Manet to come to auction.

"The way it is painted and the way the woman stands out from the painting is breathtaking," he said.

Manet is considered one of the giants of Impressionism and was known for his portraits. "Le Printemps," which depicts Demarsy as an allegory of spring wearing a floral outfit, gloves, bonnet and lace-edged parasol against a background of rhododendrons, is considered among his best known and most widely-produced works.

It is one of two paintings, along with "Un bar aux Folies-Bergere" the artist submitted to the Paris Exhibition of 1882 that led to success and recognition. "Le Printemps" has had only a few owners, including the unnamed American family selling it after a century of ownership.

"This was a celebrated work of the exhibition and widely reproduced afterwards, and it is so rare to find a work that was so important and widely celebrated in its own moment in history and still available to be acquired by a private collector today," Brooke Lampley, the head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie's, told Reuters.

Manet had intended to paint his depiction of the four seasons, but "Le Printemps" and a nearly finished L’Automne are the only ones he managed to achieve before he died in 1883 at the age of 51.

"His work is incredibly rare to the market. It is scarce," said Lampley.

"Le Printemps" has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington and has also been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Meyer said the painting is in extremely good condition because it has been in the same private collection for a century and has no retouching to its surface.

(Editing by Paul Simao)

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