NEW YORK — Mexican artist Diego Rivera's 1939 oil painting "Girl in Blue and White" is headlining Sotheby's Latin American art auction in New York.
If it sells for the high end of its $4 million to $6 million estimate, it could double the artist's previous record of $3 million.
The painting, "Niña en azul y blanco," is a portrait of 10-year-old Juanita Rosas and is from a period in which Rivera captured the innocence of children. The muralist chose the work to illustrate a catalog for a 1949 exhibition celebrating his 50 years of painting, organized by the Mexican National Institute of Fine Arts.
"It is very typical of his work, especially of that period," said Carmen Melian, director of Sotheby's Latin American Art department. Rivera "painted through the years the children of the help at his home and the neighbor's, and in particular he painted Juanita several times," Melian said.
It's Rivera's most important painting to be auctioned in decades, according to Sotheby's, which has promoted it as one of his two biggest paintings outside of Mexico and says it is hitting the market at the right time. Just last year the Museum of Modern Art featured a solo exhibit of Rivera's work.
"What I love the most is that it was painted in his studio," Melian said of the painting. "I have been in his studio and the floor there has been dyed green, that's why it is green in the piece. And the white wall in the background, with its mix of blue and pink, is almost like a Monet or a Renoir; the front is more realistic, the figure of the kid pops out."
Rivera's current record is $3,082,500 for the 1928 oil on canvas "Baile en Tehuantepec," ("Dancing in Tehuantepec") sold in 1995 at Sotheby's in New York.
"Niña en azul y blanco" could even break the auction record for Latin American art, held since 2008 by Mexican Rufino Tamayo's "Troubadour," which fetched $7.2 million.
"You never know," Melian said. "You don't see a piece like this one very often."
Sigal Ratner-Arias can be reached at https://twitter.com/(hash)!/sigalratner