Sotheby's dramatically withdrew from sale an early Schiele nude valued at $30 million-$40 million, the star lot of its flagship impressionist and modern art auction in New York on Tuesday.
The female nude, "Danae" which Austrian artist Egon Schiele painted when he was just 19 years old, had adorned the cover of the catalog for the sale and was the background image on Sotheby's Twitter account.
The auction house was tight-lipped on what happened, confirming only that it had been withdrawn "at the request of the consignor prior to the auction."
Simon Shaw, Sotheby's co-head of impressionist and modern art, had earlier this month described it as the artist's first large-scale nude and Schiele as "one of the great rock stars of modern painting."
Partially inspired by Klimt, Schiele used metallic industrial paint and the mythical figure lies in a near fetal position. Sotheby's holds the auction record for work by Schiele, set in 2011 at $40 million.
The evening sale fetched a total of $173.8 million against a revised estimate of $147-210.4 million, well short of Christie's haul of $289 million at its impressionist and modern art evening sale Monday.
The two houses founded in 18th century London are chasing combined sales of at least $1.1 billion in offering for auction hundreds of contemporary, modern and impressionist works of art this week.
Sotheby's top lot Tuesday was Russian painter Kazimir Malevich's 1915 "Suprematist Composition with Plane in Projection" which sold for $21.2 million.
The sale also broke auction records for lesser known European artists, Jean Arp at $4.9 million, Germaine Richier $3 million and Diego Giacometti for $6.3 million, Sotheby's said.
Much of the art being offered this season is fresh to market - Sotheby's says nearly two-thirds of its lots in Tuesday's evening sale and Thursday's contemporary sales have never sold at auction before.