A portrait of painter David Hockney by the artist Lucian Freud has sold for almost £15 million at auction.
The painting, which has not been seen in public since Freud’s 2012 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, sold above estimate for £14.9 million at Sotheby’s in London.
The oil on canvas, created over more than 100 hours of sittings during the spring and summer of 2002, was pursued by five collectors, bidding on the telephone via Sotheby’s representatives in New York, London and Asia.
It had been expected to sell for between £8000 and £12,000.
The portrait, painted at the height of Freud’s career in the months leading up to his critically acclaimed retrospective at Tate Britain, is considered to be one of the most masterful peer-to-peer portraits ever committed to canvas.
The duo first met in 1962 but Freud, who died in 2011, did not paint his friend until 40 years later, when Freud was almost 80 and considered to be Britain’s greatest living painter.
It shows Hockney’s face close up and mid-thought as he peers over his round spectacles.
It was the latest in a series of high-profile sitters and subjects painted by the artist, including the Queen and Kate Moss.
During the sittings the pair would gossip, drink tea and talk about art while Hockney smoked, which was permitted by Freud, as long as Hockney did not tell Moss, who had been denied the same privilege during her own sittings.
Hockney said: “It was a very memorable and enjoyable experience.
“I thought his portrait very good indeed – all the hours I sat were layered into it; he had always added, rarely taken anything away.
“It really shows.”