Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait de Romana de la Salle

Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka made a name for herself in 1920s Paris with her Art Deco portraits of wealthy aristocrats and nouveau riche heiresses, and for her highly stylized paintings of nudes. Her 1928 piece Portrait de Romana de la Salle is going on auction at Sotheby’s the evening of Nov. 14, and is now one of the most valuable works by the artist ever offered, going between $10 and $15 million.

The painting portrays the daughter of Lempicka’s close friend, the Greek-born Duchess Marika de la Salle, Romana. An aristocrat by marriage to the Duke de la Salle de Rochemaure, the Duchess went on to divorce her wealthy husband and received a generous alimony after their split. The Duchess used her newfound financial freedom to commission female artists of the era to paint her portraits.

The Wall Street Crash of 1929 left the Duchess penniless, forced to leave her lavish lifestyle behind for the Alpine village with her daughter for the rest of de la Salle’s life.

Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait de Romana de la Salle

The Portrait de Romana de la Salle is a landmark composition of the Art Deco era, and is considered one of Lempicka’s best in her body of work. Known for championing the concept of the “New Woman,” Lempicka made a habit of flipping the script on traditional gender roles.

Lempicka celebrated the independence of the modern woman as women took over traditionally male-dominated positions to aid in the war effort. As seen in Portrait de Romana de la Salle, the artist composed Romana in a petal pink asymmetrical draped knee-length dress. At the time, the color pink represented strength, power and masculinity.

“In the 18th century, it was perfectly masculine for a man to wear a pink silk suit with floral embroidery,” fashion scholar Valerie Steele, author and director of The Museum at the Fashion Institute Technology told The Atlantic. According to Steele, pink was initially “considered slightly masculine as a diminutive of red,” which was thought to be a “warlike” color.

Tamara de Lempicka

Blending influences from Renaissance art, incorporating her signature dramatic chiaroscuro, and borrowing a pose borrowed from Bocelli’s The Birth of Venus, Romana wears bold makeup against a backdrop of geometric skyscrapers. The Portrait de Romana de la Salle previously belonged in the collection of German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop for over 20 years.

Continuing to shatter glass ceilings even after her death, Lempicka is now among the top four most valuable female artists at auction. Female collectors have also, for the first time, outspent men this year at auction.

Learn more about the artwork and register to bid at sothebys.com.