On Thursday, January 26, we opened the 2017 season with a landmark sale of Alphonse Mucha & Masters of Art Nouveau: The Harry C. Meyerhoff Collection, the largest private collection of works by the artist and his circle ever to come to auction. Of the over 200 posters, sketches and ephemera, more than half of which were by Mucha; many of the pieces were unique, previously unrecorded, or had never before appeared at auction. All but one of 136 offered works by Mucha found new homes, leading to a 94% sell-through rate for the entire sale.
Lot 16: Les Maîtres de l’Affiche, complete set of 5 volumes, Paris, 1896-1900. Sold January 26, 2017 for $47,500.
The top lot was the complete set of five volumes of Les Maîtres de l’Affiche, which was published periodically in Paris from 1896 to 1900. The art critic Roger Marx compiled what he believed to be the best Art Nouveau posters of the time from Europe and the U.S., with full-color lithographs of works Jules Chéret, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Théophile Alexandre Steinlen, Mucha and others. This set, in its original binding designed by Paul Berthon, was purchased by an institution for $47,500.
Lot 135: Mucha, The Seasons, four decorative panels on silk, 1900. Sold January 26, 2017 for $35,000.
A rare set of silk panels depicting allegories of The Seasons, 1900, marks a shift in Mucha’s style away from pastels and towards realism. The set garnered $35,000.
Lot 89: Parfumerie Gellé Frères / Sylvanis Essence, 1899. Sold January 26, 2017 for $27,500.
Many posters made their auction debut, including the ethereal Parfumerie Gellé Frères / Sylvanis Essence, 1899, in its scarce pre-text format, and Krinogen, an unusual circular advertisement, circa 1928, which was purchased by a collector for $2,500.
Lot 151: Preparatory pencil sketch for Documents Décoratifs, Pl. 5, circa 1902. Sold January 26, 2017 for $15,000.
One outstanding section of the sale was a run of original sketches for Documents Décoratifs and Figures Décoratifs, two books of guides by Mucha for people to decorate their homes in an Art Nouveau style. Each of the eight sketches by Mucha sold for several times their high estimates, while an intimate portrait of the artist’s son Jirí, of which no other examples have come to auction, went for $4,250.
Lot 144: [Jirí Mucha and Hummingbird], etching, circa 1920. Sold January 26, 2017 for $4,250.
All of the offered posters Mucha designed for the actress Sarah Bernhardt performed well, led by the dramatic life-size depiction of Medee / Sarah Bernhardt, 1898. Bernhardt helped to launch the artist’s career when she commissioned him to create a poster for her 1894 production of Gismonda.
Lot 95: Medee / Sarah Bernhardt, 1898. Sold January 26, 2017 for $23,750.