Auction Results: Tintin Drawing Sets New Record With Artcurial

Liz Catalano
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Artcurial opened the 2021 auction season with two comic book sales on January 14th. The first event concluded with a sale total of EUR 4,068,837 (USD 4,939,895). This auction was devoted to Hergé, the Belgian cartoonist behind The Adventures of Tintin. A rejected cover for the comic strip achieved the highest result. This 1936 color Tintin drawing sold for EUR 3,175,400 (USD 3,859,550), setting a new auction record for an Hergé piece.

“This painting is so rare because it has never been on the private market before,” Artcurial’s comic book expert, Eric Leroy, told CNN. “It has been shown in Hergé’s museum and in the 1988 exhibition of the Tintin comic book series, but never privately before now.”

Hergé (Georges Remi),The Blue Lotus, 1936. Image from Artcurial.
Hergé (Georges Remi),The Blue Lotus, 1936. Image from Artcurial.

Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, created his first Tintin comic in 1929. The Tintin character was instantly popular in France and Belgium. A young, curious reporter, Tintin pursues light-hearted mysteries with the help of his dog, Snowy. Hergé created a long-running franchise of bande dessinées (Franco-Belgian comics) featuring Tintin. The series ran through the 20th century and remains popular across Europe. While Tintin gathered mostly positive criticism during Hergé’s lifetime, contemporary critics point out the racial stereotypes and colonialism in some of the early collections. 

The Blue Lotus, published in 1936, was the fifth installment in the Tintin series. In this story, Tintin and Snowy travel to China to investigate a smuggling ring. Hergé created an elaborate gouache cover for the book before its release as a collected volume. His design featured a twisting red dragon against a black sky. Tintin and Snowy peek out of a blue-and-white pot in the lower left-corner. 

Despite the composition’s visual appeal, Hergé’s publisher rejected it due to its high printing cost and settled on a simplified cover. Hergé gifted the original Tintin drawing to his publisher’s seven-year-old son. It remained in a drawer for decades before coming to market in the recent Artcurial sale.

Portrait of Hergé (Georges Remi) in 1969. Image from the Vagn Hansen Collection, Studios Hergé.
Portrait of Hergé (Georges Remi) in 1969. Image from the Vagn Hansen Collection, Studios Hergé.

Bidding for The Blue Lotus’ original cover was competitive. The auction house reports a three-way phone battle for the work that quickly pushed its price past the high estimate of EUR 2,800,000 (USD 3,403,500). A private collector won the Tintin drawing after several minutes. 

“Thanks to its unique characteristics, this masterpiece of the ninth art [bande dessinée] deserves this world record and confirms the excellent health of the comic strip market,” Leroy said in an Artcurial press release after the event. 

Eight of the top ten auction prices for Hergé works have been set at the French auction house. The previous record for a Tintin drawing was set in 2014. Created to preface several albums published between 1937 and 1958, a double-page spread sold for EUR 2,654,300 (USD 3,617,950). It shows vignettes of Tintin’s adventures, many of which relate to previously-published bande dessinée albums.

Hergé (Georges Remi), Pages de garde bleu foncé, between 1937 and 1958. Image from Artcurial.
Hergé (Georges Remi), Pages de garde bleu foncé, between 1937 and 1958. Image from Artcurial.

Artcurial’s most recent auction of Hergé items included reprinted Tintin drawings, letters from the artist to his publisher, sketches released by Hergé’s studio, and works inspired by the Tintin franchise. A bronze sculpture by French artist Jean-Marie Pigeon was among the key lots. The 1993 piece depicts Mitsuhirato, an antagonist in The Blue Lotus who is eventually captured by Tintin. It sold for EUR 156,000 (USD 189,790) against a high estimate of EUR 60,000 (USD 72,960). Several published copies of The Blue Lotus— with the revised cover— were also available. 

Artcurial offered a second comic strips auction on January 14th. The event brought in EUR 1,149,381 (USD 1,398,300) and featured the work of influential cartoonists André Franquin, Albert Uderzo, and Jean Giraud. 

Interested in more children’s classics? Auction Daily recently covered Swann Galleries’ upcoming Illustration Art auction, held on January 28th, 2021.

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