In our diamond anniversary year, we offered a star-studded roster of 30 auctions, setting nearly 100 records and introducing countless items to the market, including a previously unknown photograph of Harriet Tubman. Across a spectrum of media and spanning 500 years, our specialists worked tirelessly to bring these treasures together.
Totaling more than $2.5M, five of the top lots of this sale broke the artists’ previous auction records, all of which were set by Swann since the department’s inception ten years ago. Onlookers cheered as six lots exceeded $100,000, with David Hammons’s Untitled (Double Body Print), 1976, reaching $389,000. Hammons was an important assemblage artist working in L.A. He was represented in the sale by two unique multimedia works: in addition to the double body print, his Untitled (Body Print) was purchased for $161,000.
Henry Ossawa Tanner, Flight into Egypt, oil on canvas, circa 1910. Sold October 5, 2017 for $341,000.
In this landmark sale, four works exceeded $100,000. An important nocturne by Henry Ossawa Tanner titled Flight into Egypt, circa 1910, was the highlight of the sale. The subject was a favorite motif of the artist, who took several trips to the Holy Land and was deeply inspired by the experience. The large oil painting was purchased by an institution for $341,000.
We ended the spring season with American Art, offering original works by artists living or working in the U.S. A magnificent oil painting by William Glackens, The Beach, Isle Adam, 1925-26,acheived the highest price at the house in 2017, reaching $581,000. The sale featured several works not previously seen at auction, including a recently rediscovered watercolor by John Marin.
A signed photograph of John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower taken by Elliot Erwitt topped this sale, which performed well overall, with 88% of items offered finding buyers. One highlight was an extraordinary four-page letter from Ernest Hemingway to his friend, film icon Marlene Dietrich, discussing the recent publication of The Old Man and the Sea, and expressing his love for her: “Please know I love you always and I forget you sometimes as I forget my heart beats. But it beats always.”
George Washington, Autograph Letter Signed, to his spymaster Benjamin Tallmadge, New Jersey, 1780. Sold November 7, 2017 for $40,000.
This sale featured the Jimmy Van Heusen Collection, offering works by the composer as well as important letters, musical quotations and manuscripts by some of the most influential musicians of the nineteenth- and twentieth centuries. Of the 76 lots offered from the collection, 93% found buyers, exceeding the high estimate for the section by more than $70,000. The first autograph musical quotations by Van Heusen ever to come to auction included the drafts for such hits as Call Me Irresponsible, which reached $9,375. The top lot of the sale was an autograph letter from George Washington to his spymaster, Benjamin Tallmadge, requesting intelligence at the height of the Revolutionary War. Written in November of 1780 from his headquarters in Wayne, New Jersey, concerning the British troop numbers and locations on Long Island, it sold for $40,000.
In a focused offering with just more than 300 lots, 92% of works found buyers, with particularly active bidding for Bibles, incunabula, and early manuscript material. Topping the sale was Lo libre del regiment dels princeps, Barcelona, 1480, a Catalan-language guide for princes by Aegidius Romanus, which sold for $50,000, above a high estimate of $15,000, a record for the work. The book, translated from the original Latin by Arnau Stranyol, is especially noteworthy as Catalan-language incunabula appear infrequently at auction, and this appears to be the fourth work ever published in that language.
19th & 20th Century Literature
T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, privately printed edition, inscribed, London, 1926. Sold May 16, 2017 for $62,500.
This sale broke several auction records, and was topped by a complete privately printed edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1926, by T.E. Lawrence, the inspiration for the classic film Lawrence of Arabia. The stunning tome, bound in green leather, boasts 65 plates and color illustrations by contemporary artists. The present copy was inscribed by Lawrence and given to his dentist, Warwick James; it was purchased by a collector for $62,500.
More than two thirds of this auction was devoted to twentieth-century literature, including the top lot: the deluxe centenary limited edition set of 18 volumes comprising the works of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Each tome is ensconced in a custom leather binding reflecting its contents: Casino Royale features playing cards, while Octopussy is adorned with undulating tentacles. The set, celebrating what would have been Fleming’s 100th birthday, includes a selection of the author’s travel writings, previously unpublished stories and a copy of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. One of 26 lettered sets published in 2008, the work reached $30,000, tying the previous auction record.
Art, Press & Illustrated Books
Arthur Szyk, The Szyk Haggadah, limited first edition on vellum, signed, London, 1939. Sold June 13, 2017 for $17,500.
This sale offered a spectrum of books that doubled as objets d’art, with records for important twentieth-century works celebrating art and typography. The top lot of the sale was a signed and inscribed first edition Arthur Szyk’s Haggadah, 1939, printed on vellum with 14 full-page sumptuous color plates. The tome was purchased for $17,500. A rare first edition of Grapefruit, 1964, Yoko Ono’s first “event score,” doubled its high estimate to sell for $13,750, a record for the work.
In the department’s seventh consecutive sale to exceed $1M, we broke multiple established records for editions by important artists. The top lot of the sale was an important etching by David Hockney titled The Artist and Model, 1974, which was purchased for $52,500, above its high estimate of $30,000. Six of the seven offered lots by Hockney sold above or within their estimates, including the complete portfolio of Illustrations for Six Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm, 1970, with 39 etchings, some with aquatint, as well as an additional six etchings on handmade paper. The portfolio, in its original blue leather case, sold for $23,400, above a high estimate of $15,000.
In the department’s most encyclopedic offering of to date, works by Josef Albers, Jean Arp and Christo exceeded their estimates and set new auction records. The highlight of the sale was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled: Four Prints, 1983-2001, a set rarely seen complete at auction. The work, showcasing the visionary artist’s graffiti-inspired style, reached $200,000. Jean Arp’s Formes préadamites, 1945, sold for $50,000, far surpassing its estimate of $12,000.
Offering original works of art intended for publication, this sale finished with an 83% sell-through rate, and many works exceeded their high estimates. The top lot was the original watercolor for the cover of the first French edition of the third Babar book, Le Roi Babar, 1933, by Jean de Brunhoff. It was purchased by a collector for $40,000. A watercolor by de Brunhoff’s son Laurent, who carried on the Babar series after his father’s death, was also sold; Babar dans l’Île aux Oiseau, 1969, reached $7,000.
Lot 230: William Oden Waller (studio), Manhattan Mary, gouache and graphite, 1927. Sold December 14, 2017 for $77,500.
This auction was the department’s most successful to date, exceeding its high estimate and twice breaking its own record for the most expensive artwork sold. A set design for the musical Manhattan Mary by the studio of William Oden Waller topped the sale. The highly-detailed gouache with gold highlights, which served as the cover for the fall issue of The Trumpet, our biannual newsletter, barreled past its high estimate of $6,000, finally selling amid applause from the floor for $77,500. It was the highest price achieved by the department since its inception five years ago, an accomplishment made even more impressive by the fact that it had just been reset two hours before, with a watercolor by Ludwig Bemelmans, at $75,000. Featuring Madeline, Miss Clavel, and all the girls at the table, the instantly recognizable image served as the rear cover illustration for Madeline’s Christmas, 1956.
The first world atlas in the Armenian language reached more than five times its $6,000 high estimate to sell for $37,500, a record for the work. Hovhannes Amira Dadian created the atlas in the Armenian monastery on the Venetian island of San Lazzaro in 1849 in an effort to bring Western knowledge to his home country.
Richard Hakluyt, Novus Orbis, first printed use of “Virginia” on a map, Paris, 1587. Sold December 5, 2017 for $80,000.
The highlight of this sale was Richard Hakluyt’s 1587 map of the New World, Novus Orbis—the first to use the designations “Virginea” and “Nuevo Mexico.” It was one of a selection of duplicates from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Collection, originating in the William C. Wooldridge Map Collection, which was generously donated by the Virginia Cartographical Society in 2017. All proceeds from the sale of these lots are being used to support this important acquisition and the collections at Colonial Williamsburg. In its known first appearance at auction since 1917, the Hakluyt map brought $80,000.
Images & Objects: Photographs & Photobooks set multiple records for early and modern works, with 71% of works offered finding buyers. Nearly all of the offered lots by Edward S. Curtis sold above or within the estimate in this sale. Highlights included a striking portrait of Red Cloud, Oglala, 1905, which sold for $32,500, a record for the work, above a high estimate of $9,000.
Saul Leiter, Waiter, Paris, chromogenic print, 1959, printed 1990s. Sold October 19, 2017 for $25,000, a record for the work.
Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks illustrated the breadth of the photography market and the flexibility of the medium. Interest in vernacular photography was so high that the opening bid for many works exceeded the high estimate. One of the sale’s biggest surprises was a circa 1915 salesman’s album for the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, containing 86 hand-colored silver prints of pencils, erasers and marketing displays, which sold for $10,625 to an institution, above a high estimate of $2,500. A new record was established for Saul Leiter, whose atmospheric chromogenic print Waiter, Paris, 1959, sold for $25,000, above a high estimate of $9,000.
This annual auction exceeded $1M for the first time in the department’s 20+ year history. The success was due, in part, to interest surrounding a carte-de-visite album from the 1860s that contained a previously unknown photograph of Harriet Tubman. The album topped the sale, selling for $161,000, above a pre-sale high estimate of $30,000. Our specialist discovered the photograph of Tubman in the album, compiled by Quaker abolitionist Emily Howland in the 1860s. The album contains 48 photographs, including 44 cartes-de-visite of noted abolitionists, politicians and friends of Howland.
This sale was the department’s tenth consecutive auction to exceed $700,000. The top lot was a Book of Mormon, though a more unusual highlight was a rare letter by Hernán Cortés to his property manager, instructing him to be hospitable to a visiting bishop, which was purchased for $32,500; no other letters from the conquistador have appeared at auction in the last 30 years.
Missionary archive of Samuel W. and Gideon H. Pond, Minnesota, 1833-93. Sold September 28, 2017 for $112,500.
This auction featured a trove of unique material, much of which had never previously been seen on the market. The top lot was an archive of 245 letters that spanned nearly a century by early frontier missionaries in Minnesota, which was sold to a private collector for $112,500—triple the pre-sale estimate, and the highest price ever realized for an archive at Swann.
Our auction of 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings exceeded $3M and broke ten auction records. Topping the sale was the rare deluxe edition of Marc Chagall’s portfolio Four Tales from the Arabian Nights, of which only 11 were printed. Previously, the set belonged to Kurt Wolff, publisher of Pantheon Books. The vibrant color lithographs include a 13th plate denoting the deluxe edition; still in its original case, it was purchased a collector for $269,000.
Edward Hopper, Evening Wind, etching, 1921. Sold May 2, 2017 for $149,000.
The fall season began with an auction featuring an unusually high number of original artworks, which broke multiple records and earned more than $2.6M. The top lot of the sale was a large black-and-white lithograph by Pablo Picasso of Françoise Gilot, titled Françoise sur fond gris, 1950, which sold for $125,000. Of the 49 works by the master offered in the sale, 75% found buyers, for a total of $389,590. The sale featured a cavalcade of original and unique works by marquee artists, led by Elephant Spatiaux, a 1965 watercolor by Salvador Dalí in his signature style, at $60,000. Lyonel Feininger’s atmospheric watercolor Space, 1954, reached $47,500.
Edward Hopper, The Lonely House, etching, 1923. Sold November 2, 2017 for $317,000, a record for a print by the artist.
This sale established a new auction record for any print by American master Edward Hopper. The extremely rare etching The Lonely House, 1923, sold for a record $317,000 to a buyer over the phone, above a high estimate of $200,000. The previous record for a print by the artist, set in 2012, was $80,000 lower. It was also the highest price for an etching ever sold by Swann Galleries. The sale also featured a special section of prints from the estate of American artist Will Barnet, 94% of which found buyers. Bidding was particularly competitive for figurative prints of women with pets in the flattened ukiyo-e-esque style for which Barnet is celebrated. Woman, Cat and String, 1964, is especially emblematic of the style: the square color woodcut sold for $4,750, above a high estimate of $1,800.
The top lot of this sale was the iconic Tournée du Chat Noir by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen. The 1896 large-format poster was purchased after a neck-and-neck race by two phone bidders for $30,000, a record for the work. The auction also featured an enormous run of ski and winter posters, led by the breathtaking St. Moritz by Carl Moos.
This auction explored the development of twentieth-century design and its dissemination through posters. The top lot of the sale was Col Van Heusen, 1928, one of the most elegant Cubist-style designs created by Charles Loupot. The striking poster, which was intended to advertise men’s collars, displays some of the richest inking seen in the artist’s work; it sold for $50,000, far exceeding its pre-sale high estimate of $30,000. Works by Loupot performed well overall, with several claiming places in the top lots. The verdant 1923 advertisement for Voisin Automobiles reached $30,000, while his 1919 poster for Sato / Cigarettes Egyptiennes went to a collector for $7,500.
To commemorate the centennial anniversary of the U.S.’s entry in World War I, our summer sale featured propaganda from the era. However, the top lot of the sale was the iconic Keep Calm and Carry On, a rallying cry for Britons during World War II.