A life-size oil painting of a naked, overweight benefits worker by Lucian Freud has broken records at auction in New York.

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, painted in 1995, was sold for $33.6 million (£17.2 million) at Christie's.

The painting is now the most expensive work by a living artist, beating the $23.4 million (£12.1 million) fetched by Jeff Koons' Hanging Heart at Sotheby's New York last year.

Christie's said the work was a "bold and imposing example of the stark power of Freud's realism".

The artist himself said he painted to "astonish, disturb, seduce, convince" and described Benefits Supervisor Sleeping as his "most important work".

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping features jobcentre worker Sue Tilley, who posed for Freud, the 85-year-old grandson of Sigmund Freud, during the early 1990s.

It was put on public view for the first time last month in London.

"As the global market leader for post-war and contemporary art and works by Lucian Freud, Christie's is honoured to have been entrusted with this masterpiece," said Christie's London's Pilar Ordovas ahead of the auction.

14/05/2008 13:55:21