"Sopranos" painting scores lotsa loot -- $175,000

NEW YORK Fri Jul 18, 2008 1:24pm EDT

A painting of the lead actors in the hit television series ''The Sopranos'' in the pose of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino painted by Federico Castelluccio is seen in this undated handout photo released July 18, 2008. Actors James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, who played Tony and Carmela Soprano in the HBO series that ran from 1999 to 2007, stare at each other in profile just as the Duke and Duchess of Urbino do in Piero della Francesca's 15th Century original which has sold for $175,000. It was painted by Sopranos supporting actor Federico Castelluccio, who played the Italian hit man Furio Giunta who fell in love with Carmela, the mob boss' wife. REUTERS/Handout

A painting of the lead actors in the hit television series ''The Sopranos'' in the pose of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino painted by Federico Castelluccio is seen in this undated handout photo released July 18, 2008. Actors James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, who played Tony and Carmela Soprano in the HBO series that ran from 1999 to 2007, stare at each other in profile just as the Duke and Duchess of Urbino do in Piero della Francesca's 15th Century original which has sold for $175,000. It was painted by Sopranos supporting actor Federico Castelluccio, who played the Italian hit man Furio Giunta who fell in love with Carmela, the mob boss' wife.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A painting of "The Sopranos" lead actors replicating the 15th century pose of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino has sold for $175,000, said to be the highest price paid for memorabilia from the hit TV series.

James Gandolfini and Edie Falco, who played mob boss Tony Soprano and his wife, Carmela, in the HBO series that ran from 1999 to 2007, stare at each other in profile just as the Duke and Duchess of Urbino do in Piero della Francesca's original, which was painted around 1465 to 1470.

Sopranos supporting actor Federico Castelluccio, who played the Italian hit man Furio Giunta who fell in love with Carmela, painted the work after coming up with the idea during a trip to Florence when he saw della Francesca's piece at the Uffizi.

"I saw that particular painting in person and it kind of gave me a fleeting thought of, wow, it would be interesting to do a painting of James Gandolfini and Edie Falco as the Duke and Duchess of Urbino but call it the Duke and Duchess of North Caldwell," Castelluccio said, referring to the New Jersey town where the Sopranos lived.

"They're actually looking at each other but kind of have that 1,000-yard stare, looking past each other. The idea came in the fourth season, when they separate," Castelluccio said.

He said he recently sold it to Toronto oil executive Robert Salna for $175,000. The broker of the deal, the collector Keya Morgan, told Reuters that was the highest price ever for a piece of Sopranos memorabilia.

Salna was out of the country and unavailable for comment.

In June, Gandolfini sold his personal costume wardrobe from "The Sopranos" in 25 lots, fetching $187,750 for charity, four times the forecast by auction house Christie's.

Gandolfini and Falco sat for a photo shoot off which Castelluccio made drawings and then the portraits.

Painted in oil on poplar wood, the piece is mounted in a replica Renaissance Tabernacle frame custom-made by specialists. It has the same blue sky and rolling hills in the background that give della Francesca's work tremendous depth.

"I never even thought of it as a Sopranos thing," Castelluccio said. "Painting is my life. I love acting and creating characters, but if acting left tomorrow, it would be OK because I still have my painting."

(Editing by Vicki Allen)

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