On March 3, 1994, Barbra Streisand’s prized Lempicka painting, “Adam and Eve” sold for $1,982,500.00 USD on day one of her Christie’s auction. The previous high for Lempicka was $1.32 million, paid at Sotheby’s in New York in 1989. Regarding it’s sale, Barbra told The NY Times “We screamed when the Lempicka price went over $1 million. I was working out with my exercise teacher and when the bidding went over the top I screamed. I paid only $135,000 for it 10 years ago.” It took over a decade before Barbra agreed to team up with Christie’s for the sale of items from her one of a kind art deco and art nouveau collection. Straying from the norms of their other auctions, Christie’s agreed to wave their sellers commission and didn’t charge for shipping the collection across the world.
Adam and Eve is an oil on panel painting by a Polish Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. She is best known for her highly stylized nude paintings. It was completed in 1932 and is a religious subject based on the Art Deco style. The painting is 116 by 73 centimeters. Lempicka was fond of repeating certain interesting stories about the creation of Adam and Eve. The inspiration for this painting arose when a professional female model took a break to eat an apple. Lempicka asked her to hold the pose and started to sketch. She then invited a policeman who was making his rounds in the streets to pose for Adam. “By juxtaposing natural physical beauty and open sexuality with an ashen cityscape, Lempicka emphasizes the historical power of sexuality on humanity, from its biblical beginnings to a contemporary reality. Second only to the nude figures, the cityscape in Adam and Eve represents the enormous shadow of modern technology: “behind their intertwined bodies loom the skyscrapers, casting their menacing shadow, threatening to engulf, but never quite destroying, this divine moment of Paradise.” — Marisa Sandoval.
Barbra began collecting Art nouveau items in her early twenties after discovering Lilian Nassau’s famous antique showroom in Manhattan. She said “I was 21 years old. I went into her shop on 57th Street and my eyes just bulged out.” A portrait of Barbra with Lempicka’s Adam And Eve painting in her Malibu home, appeared on the cover of Architectural Digest in Dec 1993 along with a story promoting the upcoming auction. In it she said “It’s hard to let go of these beautiful things that I have loved for so many years, but I want to simplify my life. It is a good feeling to use these things for awhile and then pass them on during your own lifetime.”
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