Lucian Freud portrait expected to fetch £4.5m at auction

Lucian Freud's Woman Smiling is regarded as the work that pioneered the style of painting for which he is most recognised. Lucian Freud's Woman Smiling is regarded as the work that pioneered the style of painting for which he is most recognised. Photograph: PA

A portrait by Lucian Freud of a contentedly smiling woman, regarded as a turning point in the development of the style that made him one of the most instantly recognisable and expensive contemporary painters, is expected to fetch up to £4.5m when it is auctioned by Christie's in June.

The estimate is an indicator of the meteoric rise of Freud's prices: the last time Christie's sold the painting in 1973 on behalf of Ann Fleming, wife of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, it fetched £5,040.

Woman Smiling is an exceptionally cheerful portrait for Freud, of Suzy Boyt, an artist herself. She was a pupil of Freud's at the Slade art school before she became his lover for a decade, a friend for much longer, and mother of five of his many children, including the novelist Susie Boyt.

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