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Rockwell painting of Red Sox locker room sold for $22.5m

Christies

Norman Rockwell’s famous depiction of the Red Sox locker room sold at auction in New York for $22.5 million Thursday, quite an accomplishment for a picture originally commissioned for the front of a magazine that sold for pennies.

“The Rookie (Red Sox Locker Room)” first appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in March 1957. The picture shows a tall man, presumably a new player, entering the locker room for the first time.

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A group of gruff Red Sox players — Frank Sullivan, Billy Goodman, Sammy White, and Jackie Jensen — eye him as he enters the room.

High school athlete Sherman Safford, now 75, posed as “The Rookie.” He told the Berkshire Eagle that Rockwell paid him $60 per session.

“I wish I had kept those checks; they might be worth more than that now,” Safford told the Berkshire Eagle.

At Thursday’s auction at Christie’s in New York, “The Rookie” led the sale at $22.56 million, said Liz Sterling, the head of American art at the auction house.

The lot was packed and the painting sold to a private buyer in 90 seconds, said Sterling. Christie’s did not provide the buyer’s name.

“The strong result of this sale confirms the continued strength of the market for American art, with all sectors of the category having performed well,” Sterling said in a statement.

Rockwell’s “Willie Gillis in Convoy,” which previously hung in the principal’s office at Gardner High School, sold for $2.285 million, including the buyer’s premium, at auction in New York Wednesday.

Jacqueline Tempera can be reached at jacqueline.tempera
@globe.com
. Follow her on Twitter @jacktemp.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, Louie Lamone was incorrectly identified in a previous version of this story. Lamone was a photographer and studio assistant to Norman Rockwell.

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