The work portrays his muse and mistress, Marie-Thérès Walter - fast asleep with an open book on her lap.
This work of art led to the disintegration of his marriage to Olga Khokhlova after she saw it at an exhibition and immediately realized that the face in the picture was not hers.
La Lecture was auctioned twice, in 1989 and again in 1996, and in both cases failed to find a buyer. Fifteen years later, in February 2011, it again went to auction - this time at Sotheby's in Paris. Keep on reading to see what happened during that auction.
Picasso and Marie-Thérès Walter met in 1927 as he saw her leaving the Paris Metro. They later started an affair, which they had to keep secret since at the time he was married to Olga Khokhlova - and his new mistress was only seventeen.
Before Picasso painted La Lecture he more than once inserted some of Marie-Thérès's features into the backgrounds of some of his other paintings. It wasn't until La Lecture appeared in an exhibition, however, that his wife realized that he was having an affair with Walters. She divorced him soon afterwards.
Marie-Thérès Walters also served as inspiration for some of Picasso's other works such as Le Rêve, which he worked on during the same period as La Lecture, as well as Green Leaves, Nude and Bust.
The Art Wolf described Marie-Thérès Walter's influence on Picasso's work as follows: "Marie-Thérès's potent mix of physical attractiveness and sexual naivety had an intoxicating effect on Picasso, and his rapturous desire for her brought about a number of images that are among the most sought after of his long career."
Picasso started working on La Lecture in December 1931 and finished it in January 1932, during a time which many art experts later described as his 'lovestruck period'. The oil on panel painting is 65.5 centimeters high and 51 centimeters wide.
The painter made use of bright colors such as green and yellow to show a naked Marie-Thérès sleeping in a chair, with an open book on her lap. Writing in the Guardian, Mark Brown later speculated that the book on her lap was a 'sexual symbol'. The painting has also been described over the years as being happy, erotic and sensual.
Of Picasso and La Lecture, Sotheby's Phillip Hook said that in the first part of the 1930s, Picasso was deeply in love, and that this could be seen in the marvelous colors and stunning compositions of the work he produced during that time.
This period in his life was just about the best of all the phases Picasso went through during his career, at least in terms of marketability. Since he painted La Lecture and Le Rêve at more or less the same time, the two works are strikingly similar as far as their composition is concerned.
La Lecture went on auction in 1989 and the final bid was no less than $5.8 million. Seven years later, in 1996, it was auctioned once again - this time at Christie's in New York. The auction house expected it to fetch somewhere between $6 million and $8 million, but after a bid of $4.8 million there were no further offers and the painting had to be withdrawn. The Independent wrote at the time that many prospective buyers regarded La Lecture as being over-valued.
Over the decades the painting has been owned by U.S. art collectors David Lloyd Kreeger, Keith Warner and James W. Alsdorf.
At the start of 2011 Sotheby's announced that La Lecture would form part of a Modern art and Impressionist art sale in London the next month. The artwork was reportedly put on auction by a U.S. collector. Before the auction the painting, which had not made an appearance on the Continent since the Picasso retrospective, was displayed in Paris.
When it went on auction at Sotheby's on 8 February 2011, the auction house expected it to fetch between £12 and £18 million. Helena Newman, a spokesperson for Sotheby's, before the auction promised that it would 'excite a lot of interest'.
She was right. On that day La Lecture found a buyer within six minutes. The anonymous telephone bidder paid £25.2 million for the privilege of being its new owner.