Sotheby’s First Ever Comic Strip Sale

Paris, May 2012 – Sotheby’s first-ever auction of comic strips will be held in Paris on July 4. The highly selective catalogue features a hundred lots by outstanding exponents of what the French call ‘The Ninth Art’– from the start of the 20th century down to the present day, charting the history of Comic Strips and their relationship with the plastic arts.

The internation­ally recognised specialist in charge of the sale, Jean-Marc Thévenetin, explains that: ‘The auction reflects our conviction that Comic Strips have become an art-form in their own right. The lots selected reflect a certain approach to what Rodolphe Töpffer, the acknowledged father of the comic strip, called literature in prints – retracing their development over the decades through works by Hergé, Franquin, Moebius and Enki Bilal, and end­ing with today’s generation of comic strip artists. Our strategy is to offer rare works – like a magnificent Hergé drawing from The Crab with the Golden Claws; the exceptional cover of La Déviation by the French comic strip artist Moebius, who passed away on 10 March 2012; and plates from key moments in comic strip history. There will also be paintings, full-length stories and unusual works, such as the amazing Milou poetry album containing Hergé’s earliest drawings. The sale also features artists who made a key impact on the dynamic development of graphic art, like the Bazooka Group, who sent shockwaves around the art world in the late 1970s… In short, the sale aims to be a catalogue raisonné of the First One Hundred Years of Comic Strips!’

The sale’s only Tintin album is the first one Hergé ever produced: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1929). This rare black-and-white album, in an exceptional state of preservation, is one of the finest copies to come on the market for a decade; just ten copies in this state are known to exist. Hergé made his debut as draughtsman/author on 10 January 1929, publishing the first two plates from Tintin in the Land of the Soviets in Le Petit Vingtième. Books were his only background source, notably Joseph Douillet’s recent Moscow Unmasked, and the much earlier General Durakin by the Com­tesse de Ségur. Although controversial, this mythical debut album helped marked Hergé’s first step towards the pantheon of great 20th century artists (est. €40,000-45,000 / $50,400-56,600).

Another landmark Tintin album, The Crab with the Golden Claws (1944), is represented by a full-page Indian ink drawing on paper, dating from the end of the 1940s and produced for Casterman’s new edition of the album. This was the third full-page drawing (without blank margins) from the black-and-white edition of 1941, and used in the colour editions from 1943-47. The page is not divided into strips, but contains a single large scene, showing Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock tearing through the alleys of Bagghar in Morocco in search of Lieutenant Del­court. As with many other Tintin scenes, this exotic image has become implanted in our collective subconscious – and inspired the chase scenes in the recent Tintin film by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.

Meanwhile Babar the Elephant aficionados will be catered for by two original plates from Babar et ce Coquin d’Arthur (Babar’s Cousin: That Rascal Arthur) by Laurent de Brunhoff, published in 1946. It was Laurent’s father Jean de Brunhoff who began pub­lishing Babar’s adventures in 1931, based on stories his wife Cécile told their children; Laurent carried on from his father after World War II. Tens of millions of Babar books, translated into 27 lan­guages, have since been sold (est. €14,000-16,000 / $17,600-20,100).