NEW YORK (AP) -- Three popular Norman Rockwell masterpieces that depict slices of American life are heading for the auction block.
"Saying Grace," ''The Gossips" and "Walking to Church" are among seven works by the Saturday Evening Post illustrator going on sale at Sotheby's Dec. 4.
"Saying Grace," a scene of a crowded restaurant with a boy and woman bowed in prayer at their table, is estimated to bring between $15 million to $20 million. It could beat the Rockwell record of $15.4 million set at Sotheby's in 2006 for "Breaking Home Ties."
Rockwell was paid $3,500 for "Saying Grace," which appeared on the cover of the Nov. 24, 1951 issue. It was voted Post readers' favorite cover in a 1955 poll.
"The Gossips," which was a cover illustration of the March 6, 1948, issue, is estimated to bring $6 million to $9 million. It depicts a montage of the artist's neighbors, his wife Mary and Rockwell himself finger-wagging and yammering on the phone.
"Walking to Church" could fetch $3 million to $5 million. It appeared on the cover of the April 4, 1953, issue and shows a family dressed in their Sunday best walking along a city street. Rockwell based it on a painting by Johann Vermeer.
All three works had been on loan at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., for more nearly two decades. Its director, Laurie Norton Moffatt, said in a telephone interview that the works would be "missed terribly."
"We cared for them like children. ... We hope they come back some day. We believe that's where they belong," she said.
All seven works are being sold by the family of Kenneth Stuart, Rockwell's longtime art director at the magazine. The sale comes years after a legal battle over the works among Stuart's three sons. Rockwell and Stuart worked together at the magazine for 18 years.
Rockwell, who produced his first cover for the Post in 1916, died in 1978.