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Rockwell painting sells for record of US$46 mil. at New York City auction

NEW YORK -- A Norman Rockwell painting titled “Saying Grace” sold Wednesday at a New York City auction for US$46 million, a record for the Saturday Evening Post illustrator, Sotheby's said.

The painting had a pre-sale estimate of US$15 million to US$20 million. The US$46 million price includes a premium. In 2006, the same auction house sold Rockwell's “Breaking Home Ties” for more than US$15 million, then a record.

Another Rockwell painting, “The Gossips,” sold Wednesday for just under US$8.5 million, while a third, “Walking to Church,” fetched a little more than US$3.2 million.

For nearly two decades, all three had been on loan at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which has the world's largest collection of original Rockwell art located in the artist's hometown.

Rockwell was paid US$3,500 for “Saying Grace.” It appeared on the cover of the magazine's Thanksgiving issue in 1951 and was voted Post readers' favorite cover in a 1955 poll.

The idea for the illustration came from a reader who saw a Mennonite family praying in a restaurant. Rockwell's son, Jarvis, was among the models the artist used for the drawing.

The illustrator, who created his first cover for the Post in 1916, is celebrated for his reflections of small-town America and portraits of famous figures. Rockwell spent 47 years at the magazine and produced 321 covers. He died in 1978.

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This undated file photo provided by Sotheby's shows the popular Norman Rockwell masterpiece “Saying Grace.” (AP)

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