''The Scream'' by Edvard Munch has gone under the hammer in New York for the record-breaking sum of $119.9m.

The painting is one of the most recognisable artworks in history.

Heated competition between seven bidders took the price to the highest for a work of art at auction in just 12 minutes.

The previous record was held by Picasso's ''Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust,'' which sold for $106.5m in 2010.

''The Scream'' is one of four versions of a work - with its nightmarish central figure and lurid colors - that symbolised the existential angst and despair of the modern age.

It was sold by Norwegian Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend and supporter of the artist.

Other versions of the painting have been twice stolen from museums, although both were subsequently recovered.

The work is one of four in a series by the Norwegian expressionist artist and was the only one still owned privately.

Proceeds of the sale are to go towards the foundation of a new museum, hotel and art centre in Norway.

Copies have adorned everything from student dorms to tea mugs, and the work has the rare quality of being known equally to art experts and the general public alike.

Simon Shaw, head of the Impressionist and Modern Department at Sotheby's, said: "This is one of the very few images which transcends art history and reaches a global consciousness."