A large painting by controversial artist Robert Lenkiewicz is being offered for sale by a Birmingham gallery.
Number Nine the Gallery in Brindley-place has acquired the 6ft quare painting, the first in the series The Painter with Mary, one of 20 projects on themes such as vagrancy, sexual behaviour and suicide. On one level it is a haunting self-portrait with Lenkiewicz's young mistress, Mary, draped, inert, across his lap; on another it is a quirky take on Michelangelo's famous Pieta marble statue, which shows Mary Magdalene cradling the dead body of Christ.
"There are a lot of Robert Lenkiewicz collectors in Birmingham and the West Midlands who won't have seen this painting before,"says Lee Benson, owner of Number Nine The Gallery.
"Robert was hugely popular before he died, at the age of 60 in 2002, but since then his appeal has grown enormously and he's now one of the Britain's most collectable painters. I expect this work to be snapped up, possibly by a business."
At £50,000, the painting doesn't come cheap, but Lee is confident the price won't deter individuals or companies who are looking for a long-term investment.
"It's good value, as some galleries sell Lenkiewicz works for a lot more than this."
The London-born artist first came to public attention in the 1971 when he painted a giant mural for the Barbican in Plymouth, where he lived for most of his life. He caused a furore a decade later when he faked his own death in preparation for a project of paintings on death and caused further controversy by embalming the dead body of a tramp as part of his studies.
Lee adds: "The Mary painting is the largest we've ever exhibited at Number Nine and one of the priciest - but I'm delighted to have come across it. I've sold Lenkiewicz paintings in the past, but nothing like this. This is something special because it's such a powerful image."
The painting reflects the three-times married Lenkiewicz's obsession with women and romantic love.
"His philosophy on love was that the chase was fantastic, but once the lady was won interest waned," explains Lee. "In some cases, Lenkiewicz would actually give his mistresses money to move on.
"This painting depicts the end of the artist's relationship with Mary. He has his eyes closed and is holding her across his knees as though she is a sacrifice, just as the Pieta statue represents the sacrifice of Christ on the cross."
* Number Nine The Gallery, 9 Brindley-place, Birmingham is open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-7pm and Sunday 11am-5pm.