A landscape by painter Gustav Klimt that was stolen by the Nazis, then returned this year to the family of the Jewish owner, sold for a huge $40.4 million on Wednesday at Sotheby's in New York.
The painting, "Litzlberg am Attersee (Litzlberg on the Attersee)," easily topped its pre-sale high estimate of $25 million at the impressionist and modern sale.
Depicting a pastoral scene of towering, wooded hills rising from water into a bright sky, the landscape was stolen after the German annexation of Austria in 1938. It was only returned this spring to Georges Jorisch, grandson of the woman who owned it until the Nazis came.
Sotheby's autumn sale saw stronger results than rival Christie's, which had a poor night on Tuesday, with several of the main works, including a Degas bronze sculpture, failing to find buyers.
A centerpiece of Sotheby's catalogue -- Henri Matissse's monumental bronze sculpture of a woman seen from the back, "Nu de dos" -- was withdrawn just before the auction after being sold in a private deal.
The huge bas-relief bronze was sold for an undisclosed price to an unidentified buyer along with three others that form a group, all consigned by The Burnett Foundation of Forth Worth, Texas.
The auction house had been intending to sell them separately over the year, at prices of about $20-30 million, because as a group the price had been considered too forbidding in a nervous international market.
Picasso's playful and erotic "L'Aubade," estimated at $18-25 million, sold for $23 million. Gustave Caillebote's "Le pont d'Argenteuil et la Seine," estimated at $5-7 million, sold for $9.26 million, a record for the artist at auction.
Overall, 57 lots of 70 sold, or 81 percent, and 13 failed to find buyers, including three works by Miro and one Renoir.
It was a sharply better night for Sotheby's than at Christie's on Tuesday, when a celebrated bronze sculpture by Degas, two important Picassos and a dreamy Matisse among works failing to sell.
Only 51 of 82 lots sold at Christie's, a total of 62 percent, possibly reflecting jitters among big collectors at a time of renewed anxiety over stock markets and the stability of the euro.
"Petite danseuse de quatorze ans," which shows a childlike ballerina with one foot extended, was meant to be one of the highlights of Christie's impressionist and modern sales, but failed to find a bid higher than $18.5 million and was withdrawn. It had a presale estimate of $25 to $35 million.
Simon Shaw, head of the impressionist and modern art department at Sotheby's, said: "I am very happy. The sale last night did not go well, but you have to have confidence."
"We consciously chose not to take properties where expectations on the part of the seller were considered too strong in this market place," he said. "One has to take very much account of what is happening outside. We are living in a volatile world."
Next week both houses will hold sales of contemporary art.