PARIS—On May 11, Christie’s Paris held a sale of antique books, artists’ books and manuscripts. A total of 224 lots were presented, with 177, or 80 percent, finding buyers. In all, the sale achieved a total of €3.6 million ($4.7 million), against a €1.7 million/2.5 million estimate. The most important object sold was a very rare Mazhor (Jewish prayer book) written in Hebrew. According to the catalogue, the illuminated manuscript on vellum is thought to hail from “Tuscany, probably Florence, 1490s.” The book, estimated at €400,000/600,000, sold for €1.86 million ($2.4 million).
The second-highest lot was an original edition of Jazz, 1947, by Henri Matisse, published by Tériade, which sold within its estimate of €200,000/300,000 for €289,000 ($374,200).
Other major lots included La prose du Transsibérien, 1913, by Blaise Cendrars and illustrated by Sonia Delaunay. The copy, hand-signed by Cendrars, was estimated at €45,000/65,000 and sold for €61,000 ($78,884). Also, Franciso de Goya’s 80 prints of the disasters of war, Los Desastres de la guerra, sold for €61,000 ($78,884) on an estimate of €50,000/70,000.
A set of 26 signed letters by French writer George Sand sold for €73,000 ($94,500), against an estimate of €8,000/12,000.
The auction also included several important books and documents, including an uncensored copy of Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire; a number of individual signed letters by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry—one, estimated at €10,000/15,000 and sold for €41,800 ($54,055); letters by Marcel Proust and Salvador Dali; as well as a signed draft of a book by Sigmund Freud, Popular Psychology, which was estimated at €5,000/7,000 and sold for €23,750 ($30,713).
Christie’s Paris also hosted the highly successful sale of the Count and Countess Niel’s collection on April 16. The sale, titled “Une passion partagée,” fetched a total of €2 million ($2.7 million), selling 87 percent by lot and 91 percent by value.
Included in the top ten results was La journée des brouettes et la Fête de la Fédération Nationale, le 14 juillet 1790, au Champ-de-Mars, an oil on canvas by Hubert Robert, that was estimated at €80,000/120,000 and sold for €169,000 ($220,900); Portrait de Jean de La Fontaine, âgé de 73 ans, an oil painting by Nicolas de Largillière, which sold for €157,000 ($205,200) on an estimate of €40,000/60,000; and Le Rocher et le Belvédère à Versailles en 1786, an oil on canvas by Claude-Louis Châtelet, which sold at €133,000 ($173,860), against an estimate of €40,000/60,000, and was pre-empted by the Musée national du château de Versailles.
Sotheby’s France organized a photography auction on May 15 that brought together 113 lots, ranging from historical photographs, fashion work, modern and contemporary photography. The sale saw mixed results, bringing a total of €727,625 ($936,350). The top lot was by Helmut Newton, whose work is currently the subject of a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. The photo was a life-size print of his Big Nude IX, The Two Violettas, taken in Paris in 1991. Estimated at €90,000/120,000, it sold for €108,750 ($139,946).
Vik Muniz’s Raft of Medusa (from Pictures of Chocolate), 1999, a diptych by the Brazilian artist inspired by Théodore Géricault’s famous painting, sold for €66,750 ($85,900) against an estimate of €60,000/80,000. Another top lot was a platinum palladium print by Irving Penn, Cocoa Dress (Balenciaga), Lisa Fonssagrives–Penn, Paris, 1950. Estimated at €45,000/65,000, it sold for €54,750 ($70,455). Selling for €51,150, on an estimate of €15,000/25,000, was Henri Cartier-Bresson’s vintage print of a eunuch of the imperial court of the last dynasty, 1949, Beijing.
Other photographs that did well included a Man Ray solarized portrait of Pablo Picasso that was estimated at €7,000/10,000 and sold for €28,350 ($36,540); a Massimo Vitali beach scene from 1995 titled Animalacci that sold for €24,750 ($31,850), on an estimate of €12,000/16,000; and BicentennialDiary,1976, by Peter Beard, that was estimated at €8,000/12,000 and sold for €21,150 ($27,220).