The three-day Paris auction, expected to bring in as much as $70 million, boasts the largest Picasso collection ever to go on the block.
Theodora Markovic, known as Dora Maar, met Picasso in 1936 when she was 29 years old.
The daughter of a Yugoslav architect and a French mother, the raven-haired beauty became Picasso's lover and model. During this exceptionally turbulent eight-year period of his life, the artist painted her obsessively.
But much in the way that most of Picasso's affairs ended, the artist left her in the 1940s for the younger Francoise Gilot. Maar went into a tailspin, locking herself in her apartment and refusing even to see close friends.
|CBS News Correspondent Maggie Cooper Reports.|
Maar never married and had no heirs. Her 1958 will named three monks as benefactors of her estate. However, all three are said to have died before her.
Genealogists tracked down two distant relatives, neither of whom had even heard of Maar. After 60 percent of the proceeds of the sale go to the government for taxes, the relatives will receive most of the remaining 40 percent.
Picasso's granddaughter was upset that the very personal items had gone on the auction block at all, saying that her family had been informed too late to stop the auction.
The big ticket items sold on the first evening were 10 oil paintings, including seven of Dora. The highest price, $6.6 million, was fetched for the 1937 The Crying Woman (Study for Guernica), in which Dora's eyes are turned into tears pierced with long pins.
The favorite of many, Dora Maar with Green Nails, fetched a disappointing $4.1 million. The 1936 tableau shows Maar at the height of her style, her chin resting on green-painted nails and hair braided on top of her head.
Tuesday evening's big success was the drawings, especially Dora with Undone Hair, which went for $900,000.
|A Picasso portrait of Maar|
"Most of the drawings were in [Maar's] apartment in five boxes," said Picasso expert Marc Blondeau. "The small matchboxes were in shoe boxes, the jewels in cake and metal boxes. They were all spread around the apartment, some hidingÂ… It was like the cavern of Ali Baba."
Pablo Picasso had, to say the least, a complicated love life -- two wives and a succession of mistresses, all submissive to his petulant demands.
Dora Maar alone stood up to him. She was herself an artist and photographer and some of her work is also in the sale - including a series of photographs of Picasso's classic Guernica in progress.
As always, major collectors are buying the important works. But Picasso's gifts to his mistress are priced to be in reach of art lovers on a budget. Nothing, it seems, was too small or insignificant for the master to scrawl on.
©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report