A topless painting of Bea Arthur, famous for her roles in Mame, Maude and The Golden Girls has sold in America for $1.9 million. The portrait – which Arthur never sat for – was created by artist John Currin in 1991.
Arthur, who died in 2009 aged 86 from cancer, was depicted nude from the waist up although the painting was based on a picture of the actress clothed.
Auction house Christie’s said the artist “mixes nostalgia with provocation,” and over the 22 years since it was first exhibited it has met with a mixed reaction – from praise to disgust.
The Currin work was expected to fetch as much as 2.5 million US Dollars as part of a post-war and contemporary arts sale in the states on Wednesday.
Arthur once speculated about the portrait and Currin’s reasons for it to the New York Times, “Maybe he was attracted to the feminist movement of the 1970s. Because of ‘Maude,’ I was the Joan of Arc of feminism. He certainly couldn’t have done anything with Marlo Thomas of ‘That Girl.'”
The painting was sold to a private bidder.
Arthur continues to be popular with comedy fans as The Golden Girls continues to air in repeats around the world. The show is currently airing on TLC in the UK. Below Bea and Angela Lansbury perform a song from the musical Mame of which both starred in during the sixties on Broadway and Bea took to the big screen alongside Lucy Ball.