Books & Manuscripts

Three of a Kind: Autograph Works From the Artists' Hand

Ahead of Sotheby's Paris auction, Bibliothèque R. et B. L. Autographes et Manuscrits XIXe et XXe Siècles on 22 May, we look at three different works created directly by the artists' hands.

1. Erik Satie, Autograph manuscript of the ‘Cancan Grand-Mondaine’ from “La belle excentrique” for piano solo, signed on the title (“Erik SATIE”), c.1920, Estimate €8,000–10,000

La belle excentrique is a characteristically satirical work in which Satie parodies music-hall clichés. It was composed for small orchestra in 1920 and was performed at the Colisée in 1921, originally comprising a ‘Grande Ritournelle’ and three dances. The work was commissioned by the rather scandalous avant-garde dancer Élisabeth Toulemon (1889-1971), who performed under the stage name “Caryathis”. The original orchestral score and a version for piano 4-hands were published in 1922. An arrangement of three of the numbers for solo piano was also printed, but without the present ‘Cancan Grand-Mondain’, which therefore remains unpublished in this form.

Being the last movement of the satirical dance suite La belle excentrique, notated for a piano solo in brown ink on five systems per page, with some performance markings added in blue and orange crayon and in pencil, presumably by the composer.

2. Jean Cocteau, Series of 13 original drawings executed in pen and pencil, with Cocteau’s autograph captions and text. Estimate €20,000–30,000

This exceptional notebook of drawings by Jean Cocteau was executed in Toulon during the Summer of 1931. At this time, Cocteau spent 40 days in a clinic because of a paratyphoid temperature (one of the drawing references the situation mentioning “dans la grande chambre de la clinique”, or ‘in the main room of the clinic”. Cocteau then spent his journey drawing portraits of his friends. Some of the drawings have an oneiric tone emphasised by some annotations. The artist’s hand reminds us the distress of the poet, weakened by drugs. Some of the shaded drawings evoke drawings from the Renaissance.

3. Paul Gauguin, Autograph letter signed to Camille Pissarro [1882]. Estimate €12.000–15.000

Several letters from Paul Gauguin to his mentor Camille Pissarro show their almost filial relationship. They were really close friends and were used to paint together, that’s why he allows himself to criticize his friend’s works. In this autograph letter dated 1883, he even goes so far as to share some reserves he has about two gouaches by Pissarro that he had just seen at the Galerie Durand-Ruel.

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