The Market: Price of a Picasso

Back home in Barcelona after his first unsuccessful foray on Paris, Pablo Picasso in 1902 painted a somber, Blue Period portrait of a woman, barefoot, with child in arms and holding a single bright red flower. At Sotheby's auction house last week, Picasso's down-and-out souvenir, Mother and Child by the Sea, brought the highest price ever paid for a work by a living artist: $532,000, more than double the previous record, also held by Picasso, whose Death of Harlequin sold in 1962 for $224,000.

It was a day that set records around the clock, and with each record came a...

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