In 1963, Pop art pioneer Roy Lichtenstein earned $1,000 for his comic-book-style painting called “The Ring (Engagement).” On May 12, Sotheby’s will be asking $50 million for the same work of art.
“The Ring (Engagement)” is one of Lichtenstein’s largest paintings at 48 inches by 70 inches and depicts a close-up view of a man placing a diamond engagement ring on a woman’s finely manicured finger. In the background is a web-like formation of tapered red crystals.
Interestingly, “The Ring (Engagement)” has had only two owners since Lichtenstein painted it in 1962. French collector Jean-Marie Rossi bought it from the artist’s gallery in 1963 for $1,000 and sold it for $2.2 million to Chicago businessman Stefan Edlis in 1997, the same year Lichtenstein passed away at the age of 74.
Edlis told The Wall Street Journal that “The Ring” has been hanging in his media room for years and was the first hand-painted Lichtenstein he ever bought. “I think it’s so sexy how he takes this quiet moment of a proposal and turns it into an exciting crash,” Edlis said. “Clearly, the woman accepted.”
Sotheby’s noted that the painting "encapsulates all of the major themes" in Lichtenstein's "most acclaimed and sustained body of work." The Manhattan-bred artist, who was a contemporary of Andy Warhol, often used comic strips and popular media as inspiration.
According to ArtNews.com, Lichtenstein created a series of paintings based on scenes from love and war comic books during a three-period starting in 1961. “The Ring (Engagement)” is from that series.
The work demonstrates the artist’s signature usage of Ben-Day dots, which are small colored dots that are either tightly spaced or widely spaced on a white background to trick the eye into seeing other hues. Widely spaced red dots, for example, would be perceived as pink.
The pricing of the bright red painting reflects a booming market for Lichtenstein’s works. Two years ago, Lichtenstein’s “Woman With Flowered Hat” sold for $56.1 million at Christie’s New York.
“The Ring (Engagement)” can be previewed at Sotheby’s Los Angeles today, March 26, and will hit the auction block at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 12 in New York.
Credits: “The Ring (Engagement)” photo via Sotheby’s; Roy Lichtenstein image via Wikicommons.