John Lennon’s August 1966 proclamation that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus” earned the group more than a few death threats, but it actually wasn’t the first time that the most successful pop group of all-time had to deal with such danger. Before John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr even stepped off the plane for a June ’66 concert at Tokyo’s Budokan Hall, they had received numerous death threats and sparked a protest that required 35,000 policemen to keep the quartet safe.
The mass hysteria created by the Beatles’ mere presence required the group to stay inside their Tokyo hotel room for two days straight. Manager Brian Epstein gave the band a canvas and paint to keep them entertained, and what the band came up with was a strikingly beautiful piece that may have foreshadowed their imminent foray into psychedelia.
The 30”x40” painting, dubbed “Images of a Woman,” sold for $155,120 at an entertainment memorabilia auction in New York City September 14. The catalog from Paul Weiss Auctions, who originally estimated the item’s going price to be between $50,000 and $100,000, detailed how each Beatle put his mark on their respective corners of the artwork.
“Paul’s corner has a symmetrical, psychedelic feel, John’s has a dark center surrounded by thick oils, George’s part is large and colorful, and Ringo’s has a cartoon like image,” the catalog read. All four members signed a blank spot in the middle, which is where a lamp was placed for light.
When the buyer receives the piece, it will be the first time it’s ever left Japan.
“Originally, I thought it might be best kept as a piece of Japan’s cultural heritage; it has never left Japanese soil in 46 years,” the painting’s previous owner, Japanese businessman Takao Nishino, recently told The Atlantic. “But the Beatles phenomenon was and remains a global one.”