Sotheby’s is selling a Lucian Freud portrait of Bernadine Coverley, the Irish teenager with whom he had two daughters—Bella and Esther—who have gone on to become well-known public figures in Britain, painted when Coverley was pregnant with Bella Freud. The work will be auctioned on February 10 in London with an estimate of £10m.
Sotheby’s waxes romantic in its press release:
Much has been written about Freud’s famously numerous partners – when he first met Coverley, he had already been twice married and had fathered a number of children – but little is known about their relationship. Pregnant Girl opens a window onto the most meaningful moment in the lives of both lovers, embodying the singular tenderness he felt for Bernadine, soon to be the mother of his daughters Bella and Esther. “It must have been a very happy time in her life, being pregnant with the man she loved and him wanting her to be there and paint her”, says their daughter Bella, “I think he was undoubtedly the love of her life.”
After separating from Freud, Coverley left England (and its conservative views on unmarried mothers) with her two small daughters to start a new life in Morocco. The story of their bohemian lifestyle in Marrakesh was immortalised in Esther’s novel “Hideous Kinky”, and later turned into a hit film with Coverley played by Kate Winslet.
Although he was not altogether present in Bella and Esther’s early years, Freud was extremely close with his two daughters, painting both of them several times, including Baby on a Green Sofa (1961), a painting of Bella as a baby resting on the same green sofa in which her mother was portrayed. Remarkably, after two extraordinary lives, Freud and Coverley died within just four days of each other in July 2011.