By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
A portrait by Pablo Picasso of Dora Maar, his wartime mistress, sold at Sotheby's on Tuesday night for £7.4 million - just short of its top estimate.
In pictures: Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art sale
It helped dispel fears that the global financial downturn would hit the February art sales in London.
Tete de Femme (La Lectrice — Dora Maar) by Pablo Picasso, which sold for £7.4 million
In the same sale, Weidende Pferde III by the German expressionist Franz Marc fetched £12.3 million - double its pre-sale low estimate - and Renoir's La Loge sold for £7.4 million, three times the low estimate.
A Henry Moore bronze sold for £3.7 million, a record for the British sculptor.
Despite worries about recession, London's auction houses hope to sell a record £530 million-worth of Impressionist, modern and contemporary paintings this month.
On Monday, a sale at Christie's fetched £105 million, the second highest total for any art auction in Europe.
The 77-lot auction of impressionist and modern art took a total of nearly £117 million. A similar sale at Christies on Monday night made £105.3m.
Additional auctions will take place at both sale rooms during the week but the two prestige evening events made an overall total of more than £222m demonstrating the international power of the London art market.