Two early Andy Warhol paintings were sold at auction in New York on Tuesday by the family of the pop art visionary, the first in a series of little-known works that will reach the art market, his nephew told AFP. The 1948 self-portrait "Nosepicker 1: Why Pick on Me" went for $491,400 including fees, while "Living Room," also from 1948, sold for $315,000 at a sale organized by New York's Phillips.

The prices were far removed from the stratospheric amounts paid for his more famous works, such as "Shot Sage Blue Marilyn," which shows the likeness of actress Marilyn Monroe and was auctioned in May for $195 million-a record for a 20th-century artwork. "This is early work. He's mostly known for his silkscreens but we're very happy with sending these works out into the world," said artist James Warhola, the 67-year-old son of Warhol's older brother.

"They're gonna make some collector very happy," said Warhola, who put the works up for auction. "They're very rare. And they're the first of our collection of 10 pieces. So we'll continue selling them." The works date back to when Warhol, the son of a working-class family of Eastern European immigrants, was a 20-year-old art student in his native Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before he left to try his luck in New York.

First working as an advertising artist, he broke through in the 1950s and then rose to fame in the 1960s, thanks to unique works exploring consumer society, advertising and the notion of celebrity. The platinum-and-silver-wigged pop artist died in 1987.

According to his nephew Warhola, who kept the "a" in the family name, the works sold on Tuesday may interest collectors "who own a lot of Warhol, and they have to fill out their collection with something very early." "They were in the family for 70 years, (but) none of us could afford to buy them individually, so we have put them to auction," he said.

Both paintings had almost been lost. At the end of the 1970s, the Warhola family had their car stolen, with the two works inside. The car was eventually recovered with the paintings unscathed, the Phillips auction house said. - AFP