At Sotheby’s Collection of David Teiger auction in London on Friday, artist Jenny Saville set a new record for the most ever paid at auction for the work of a living female artist. Her 1992 self-portrait Propped sold for $12.4 million, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $3.9-5.2 million. A young British artist known for her massive figural paintings of women and her expressive use of paint, Propped is one the most significant works from Saville's oeuvre.
Standing at seven by six feet, the towering canvas presents an intimate and unflinching view of the female body. Defying beauty standards and the tradition of the male gaze in painting, Propped is a realistic portrayal of the female body, painted from the female perspective. The subject (Saville) looks at herself in a foggy mirror, through text she has written on the glass: a quote from “When Our Lips Speak Together”, an essay by the French feminist Luce Irigaray, which appears in reverse to the viewer. The text, which addresses how women's communication and self-representation should not serve the patriarchal system, is inscribed in the paint itself and appears to be written on the flesh as well.