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New York - Amedeo Modigliani’s painting of a sultry nude fetched $170.4m (R2.4bn) from a Chinese buyer at Christie’s on Monday, a record for the Italian artist at auction.

Estimated at more than $100m, Modigliani’s 1917 painting, Nu Couche (Reclining Nude), has the highest valuation among almost 2 000 lots offered by three major auction houses during semi-annual sales of Impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary art in New York.

It achieved the second-highest auction price for any artwork, after a Picasso painting from 1955 that sold in May at Christie’s for $179.4m (R2.56bn).

The Long Museum in China was the buyer of the Modigliani, according to Christie’s. The museum was founded by billionaire Liu Yiqian, who frequently buys art with his American Express card. Christie’s promised to pay the consignor a minimum guaranteed price regardless of what happened, a deal partly or fully financed by a third party.

The Modigliani anchored Christie’s special auction, The Artist’s Muse, of paintings and sculptures that were created from the 1860s through the 2000s. The auction continues.

The canvas depicts a naked, dark-haired beauty reclining on a red couch with a blue pillow. The previous auction record for Modigliani was $70.7m (R1bn), established at Sotheby’s a year ago for a carved stone head of a woman. The highest price paid for a painting by Modigliani, $68.9m (R983m), was in 2010, also at Sotheby’s.