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Naked painting of 'Golden Girls' star Bea Arthur could fetch millions at auction

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Christies Bea Arthur
John Currin/Christie's

A topless painting of Bea Arthur is expected to fetch between $1.8-$2.5 million when it hits the auction block at the Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale in New York City tonight.

John Currin’s 1991 portrait, called “Bea Arthur Naked,” depicts Arthur around the time she starred as a middle-aged politically liberal suburban woman in the 1970s sitcom Maude.

Click on to see the full portrait. (Warning: NSFW) 

Derived from a photograph of a fully clothed Arthur, Currin — known for what art critic Peter Schjeldahl once called his “acrid fantasy portraits of menopausal women” — says he used artistic license to create the portrait of the actress in the flesh.

“I had a vision in my head of Bea Arthur, and I found a picture of her. I was going to put a scarf ensemble on her like that from her Maude days, and I drew the body just to drape it. It was then that I realized that the painting was fantastic as it was,” reads a quote from the artist in the Christie’s lot notes. “I loved being repelled by those two black eyes and falling back into these wonderful, soft breasts, which draw you back in.”

Arthur, who won Emmy Awards for both Golden Girls and Maude, died of cancer in 2009.

Among the other items up for bids at tonight’s Christie’s auction are works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jackson Pollock, whose Number 19, 1948 is valued at $25-$35 million.

Follow Bronwyn on Twitter: @BronwynBarnes

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