PARIS—At Artcurial | Briest – Poulain – F. Tajan in Paris on Feb. 14, an exceptional collection of drawings by writers, from the private collection of book editors Pierre and Franca Belfond, achieved excellent results. Bringing in €1.6 million ($2.1 million), well above the estimate of €940,000/1.2 million, the sale set six records for works by Arthur Rimbaud, Jean Cocteau, Guillaume Apollinaire, Tristan Tzara, and Max Jacob, as well as for a gravure by Roger Vailland. The collection, compiled over the last 40 years, was comprised of 135 drawings—landscapes, urban scenes, abstract compositions, portraits and self-portraits—by the likes of William Burroughs, Eugène Ionesco, Victor Hugo and Lawrence Durrell.
The top lot in the sale had the highest estimate (€120,000/150,000): a rare ink drawing titled Young coachman in London, by Rimbaud and thought to have been annotated by Paul Verlaine, which sold for €285,554 ($376,720). Cocteau’s album of 21 drawings entitled “La vierge au g.c.,” 1931, featured caricatures of various figures from French high society, including Coco Chanel and Marie de Noailles, drawn in the style of George Grosz or Otto Dix. The album sold for €217,398 ($286,804), more than tripling its low estimate of €60,000/80,000.
Two watercolor and pencil works, both dated 1916, by Apollinaire—Le Maréchal des logis au masque d’Espérance, a self-portrait as a heroic marshall on horseback, and Le Caporal de la Légion, a portrait of Blaise Cendrars as a corporal in the French Foreign Legion—individually estimated at €20,000/30,000, sold for €62,498 ($82,451) each.
Other outstanding lots included Verlaine’s Couple de singes et autoportraits simiesques, an 1893 ink sketch that fetched €43,910 ($57,930), against an estimate of €15,000/20,000; and Baudelaire’s portrait of his mistress and muse Jeanne Duval, a graphite and ink, which brought €68,694 ($90,625) on an estimate of €50,000/80,000. Henry Miller’s vibrant watercolor and pencil depiction of two women from 1958 sold for €6,120 ($8,073), surpassing its estimate of €3,000/4,000.
Marcel Proust’s pastiche in ink of an advertisement for Michelin tires, Avec les pneus Michelin…, sold within the estimate of €30,000/40,000 for €37,714 ($49,754); and an unusual 1942–43 drawing by Antoine de Saint Exupéry, part self-portrait and part a depiction of his famous subject The Little Prince, sold for €16,576 ($21,868) on an estimate of €10,000/15,000.
Other works sold included, Tzara’s Compositions en dessin automatique, a collection of 50 recto-verso drawings in blue ink (except one in brown), which sold for €19,126 ($25,230) on an overall estimate of €3,000/4,000; and a 1917 gouache and watercolor by Jacob, Scène japonaise avec samouraïs, which tripled its low estimate of €3,000/4,000 to sell for €10,838 ($14,300).