Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Auction Adventures of TinTin and Babar the Elephant


For the first time, 268 years after they were founded, Sotheby's held a comic auction in France. While Sotheby's auctioned off some comic books in the 1990s, this was the first time (to my knowledge) that they held an auction specifically geared toward "comics" or as the French call them, "band of drawings" or Bande Dessinée. 


The more important pieces were of European origin: Tintin and Babar. It would appear that comics have become an artform whether traditional art dealers wish to admit it or not. 

Fetching a hammer price of $295,506 (234,750) from the comic strip The Adventures of Tintin, was The Shooting Star, published in Le Soir in 1941. 


If you haven't already read this delightful story, it's a must read. Tintin and his dog, Snowy, set out on yet another mission, this time, to find the shooting star or meteor that has crashed into the ocean. The mineral from which it is composed has amazing powers, so whoever gets there first, naturally, will become rich and famous - or at the very least, extremely important. 

© Soph Laugh
Tintin and Snowy at the MOOF Museum


The cartoonist, Georges Remi, better known by his pen name of Hergé, created this cartoon from Nazi occupied Belgium, so Tintin is more like an explorer than a reporter, cautiously avoiding the more controversial subjects of the time. The story later became the first Tintin comic book. 

George Remi "Hergé"

For those of you who saw Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn" in the utterly amazing 3D motion capture film, you might recognize Hergé drawing Tintin in the open-air market in this shot: 




While Hergé and Tintin stole the auction, Babar and his Cousin Arthur, from 1946, held his own with a $22,029 (€ 17,500) price tag. The panel showed Babar in his nifty red and white jumpsuit jumping from an airplane with his parachute. This was the first Babar story created by Laurent de Brunhoff, before Babar got his signature lime green suit. 

Babar by Laurent de Brunhoff


For those of you who caught the Musée des Arts Décoratifs exhibition on Babar, you know that while the exhibit was rather small, it was jam-packed with tons of goodies from Jean de Brunhoff, the creator of Babar who wrote (in addition to the L'Histoire de Babar, le Petit Éléphant) seven more books about Babar before he died in 1937, and his son, Laurent de Brunhoff, who took over in 1946. 

Display at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs 


The first Babar books were made between 1931 and 1937, a critical time in French history (and world history). Babar's depiction of Celesteville seems to have modeled itself after a nostalgic France as it was before World War I, with Celesteville serving as a sort of utopian city devoid of corruption.


One of Jean de Brunhoff's sketches at this exhibit depicted the dining room for children aboard the  famous cruise liner, the SS Normandie, which Brunhoff designed. 




Cecile and Jean de Brunhoff with sons Laurent (left) and Mathieu



While only 25 of the 92 lots were sold (which still yielded a total sales of $760,473 US/ 604,125), I have a feeling we'll be seeing many more comic auctions coming up soon. 




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