New York (AFP) - Pablo Picasso's 1932 oil painting "Le Sauvetage" sold at auction for more than $31 million after a bidding war at Sotheby's in New York which saw it surge past its estimated pre-sale price.
The surrealist master's enigmatic work -- which was last sold a decade ago -- went under the hammer for $31.525 million following frenzied bidding over several minutes.
The painting had been expected to fetch between $14 million and $18 million.
The painting was part of 14 Picasso works offered by Sotheby's as part of its auction of Impressionist and Modern Art.
In total, eight lots were sold for an aggregate $62.088 million.
However one of the lots expected to generate most activity -- Picasso's "Tete de Marie-Therese" ("Head of Marie-Therese"), valued between $15 million and $20 million, failed to find a buyer.
Another important work "La Seance du Matin" by French master Henri Matisse, sold for $19.205 million, just below its lower estimate of $20 million.
A canvas by French impressionist Claude Monet, "Le Pont Japonais" ("The Japanese Bridge") meanwhile fetched $15.845 million, in line with its estimated range of between $12 million and $18 million.
Sotheby's reported total sales of just under $219 million.