Der Irrsinn (Madness) by Albert Birkle, €720,000 (£620,690) at Lempertz.

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Several of his works with their exaggerated physiognomies and surreal depictions were inspired by the medieval Dances of Death.

In 1925, he produced Der Irrsinn (Madness), a 2ft 1in x 1ft 11in (64 x 58cm) oil on canvas which plumbs the depth of the human psyche but soared to new heights at Lempertz (25% buyer’s premium) in Cologne on June 6.

The artist obviously treasured his work because he kept it until 1977. It was subsequently purchased by a Bavarian collector and from then onwards it belonged to his family. Lempertz had set the guide at €40,000-60,000; the competition was fierce and in next to no time, the price reached €720,000 (£620,690), with a local collector emerging victorious.

This marks a new record price for the artist. The previous one was also set by Lempertz when in 2020 it achieved €660,000 for Der Bahnwärter (The Signalman) from 1927.