Pablo Picasso's curvy and colourful portrait of his "golden muse" and young mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter fetched nearly $45 million at a London auction Tuesday night.

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A Sotheby's expert discusses the 1932 Pablo Picasso painting Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Woman sitting near a window), which sold for nearly $45 million at a London auction Tuesday night. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Sotheby's sold Picasso's 1932 painting Femme assise près d'une fenêtre (Woman sitting by a window) for £28.6 million (about $44.6 million Cdn) to an anonymous telephone bidder.

The price fell within the presale estimate of £25 million to £35 million ($39 million to $54.6 million Cdn).

"We are delighted that this stunning and monumental portrait, which is part of the defining series that introduced his 'golden muse' to the public eye, fetched such a strong price," said Helena Newman, chair of Sotheby's impressionist and modern art department in Europe.

"This particular portrait is a striking and notably modern-looking work from one of the artist's most celebrated periods."

Several of Picasso's paintings of Walter — whom he met in 1927 in Paris, when he was 45 and she 17 — have garnered high prices at auction in recent years. The couple's relationship was kept secret for years because of her young age and his marriage to his first wife, ballerina Olga Khokhlova, at the time. Walter gave birth to their daughter Maya in 1935. 

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, Another work from the same series featuring Walter, held the title of most expensive work ever sold at auction for a time. It fetched $106.5 million US at auction in 2010, but a new record was set in 2012 with the $120 million US sale of Edvard Munch's The Scream.

Though Picasso's Femme assise was the star lot of Tuesday's auction, its sale wasn't the lone highlight. Other works snapped up include art by Claude Monet, Egon Schiele, Edgar Degas, Joan Miro and Salvador Dali. Overall, the impressionist and modern art auction netted £121 million ($188.8 million Cdn).

With files from The Associated Press