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Cezanne painting goes for $41.6 mln in US auction

'Les Pommes' by Paul Cezanne is on display during a preview of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art sales, May 3, 2013
"Les Pommes" by Paul Cezanne is on display during a preview of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art sales in New York, May 3, 2013. The painting sold for $41.6 million, while a painting owned by pop star Madonna went for $7.16 million.

Paul Cezanne's "Les Pommes" sold for $41.6 million at an auction of Impressionist and Modern art held by Sotheby's in New York, while a painting owned by pop star Madonna went for $7.16 million.

"Les Pommes," a landmark still life of apples on a table from 1889-90, went for the highest price at the Tuesday night auction, followed by Amedeo Modigliani's famed portrait "L'Amazone," which went for $25.9 million.

"'Les Pommes' is one of Cezanne's most perfect still lifes," Charles Moffett, vice chairman of Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art, said ahead of the event. The painting had been expected to go for $25-35 million.

"These moving compositions, which explore the paradoxes of forms in space, inspired the Cubism of Picasso and Braque and signal the birth of modern art."

Modigliani's "L'Amazone" was painted early in his career in 1909 and shows the glamorous Baroness Marguerite de Hasse de Villers. It had been estimated at $20-30 million.

The two works are from the collection of philanthropists Alex and Elisabeth Lewyt and will fund a foundation set up in their honor, with a focus on animal welfare and their other favored causes.

Madonna's "Trois Femmes a la Table Rouge," a Cubist work painted by Fernand Leger in 1921, sold for $7.2 million, exceeding its estimate of $5-7 million.

The proceeds will go to the entertainer's Ray of Light Foundation, which supports girls' education projects in the Middle East and South Asia.

A Pablo Picasso sculpture of his young muse Sylvette, estimated at $12-18 million, sold for $13.6 million.

Sotheby's also auctioned off three bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin, including a version of "Le Penseur," or "The Thinker," which sold for $15.3 million.

All told, the auction netted more than $230 million, just under the pre-sale high estimate of $235.1 million, Sotheby's said.

The sale failed to live up to last year's auction, when a version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" set a world record by selling for $119.9 million.

Most of the 71 lots sold on Tuesday went for well within their estimated range, even when fees were added in.

The spring auction will continue Wednesday at Christie's.

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