A Norman Rockwell painting titled "Saying Grace" sold at an auction yesterday for $46 million, a record for the Saturday Evening Post illustrator and for any work sold at an American art auction, Sotheby's said. Two people on the telephone bid against each other for nine minutes before the hammer came down, with the winner's identity kept a secret. The painting, which was voted Post readers' favorite cover in a 1955 poll, had a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $20 million—well above the $3,500 Rockwell was originally paid for it.
The previous record for any work at an auction of American art was set in 1999, when George Bellows' painting "Polo Crowd" sold at Sotheby's for $27.7 million. Another Rockwell painting, "The Gossips," sold yesterday for just under $8.5 million, while a third, "Walking to Church," fetched a little more than $3.2 million. The three paintings, along with four other Rockwell works, were auctioned by the family of Kenneth Stuart, Rockwell's longtime art director. Rockwell Museum's director called it "a thrilling moment for Norman Rockwell."