EFEBy Helen Cook. New York City, US

A Pablo Picasso portrait of his lover became the star of Christie's 20th Century Art auction held Thursday in New York, where a nearly 20-minute battle between two bidders raised the sale price of the work to $103.4 million.

The bidding for "Femme Assise Près d’une Fenêtre (Marie-Thérèse),” a large, vibrantly colored portrait of Picasso's muse and lover Marie-Thérèse Walter, came close to doubling the estimated price tag of $55 million estimated by experts at the auction house.

Bidding started at $45 million and stopped at $90 million, to which fees and taxes were later added.

The piece, measuring 146 x 114cm, is considered an exceptional work by Picasso, since the Spaniard normally painted Marie-Thérèse lying down, naked, with her eyes closed and appearing lost in her own thoughts. In this she sits relaxed, but commanding and stately, on a black chair near a window.

In addition, it was painted in 1932, one of the artist's most productive and coveted years. "Everyone wants one of his 1932 works," said Vanessa Fusco of the auction at Christie's Thursday.

Specifically, it was produced in October 1932 at Picasso's Château de Boisgeloup in Normandy, and is part of a series of portraits of Marie-Thérèse that were exhibited in "Picasso, 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy," which in 2017 and 2018 was displayed at the Tate Modern in London and at the Musée Picasso in Paris.

In the curvilinear cubism painting, Marie-Thérèse, who met Picasso outside a gallery at 17 years of age when the painter was 45, is dressed in red, green and lilac