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It may represent just one small step for Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock, but the price paid by a European collector Saturday at Artcurial Paris for the original page depicting the Hergé characters’ landing on the moon from the 1954 “On a marché sur la lune” (We walked on the moon) represented one giant leap for Tintin-kind: 1,553,312 Euros ($1,646,510), doubling Artcurial’s pre-sale estimate of 700,000 – 900,000 Euros and the most ever paid for a single original page by Hergé. An ensemble of the originals for 20 Christmas-themed cards created in 1942-43, meanwhile — pre-sale estimated at 60,000 – 120,000 Euros a pop by the leading auction house for all things Tintin — yielded a total of 1.5 million Euros, or $1.5 million. It’s enough to leave even a life-long Tintin fan… speechless. Above: Hergé (Georges Rémi dit), historic page from the album “On a marché sur la lune,” published in 1954. Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016. — Paul Ben-Itzak
Hergé (Georges Rémi dit): Snow card, China ink and watercolor on paper, 1942/43, original drawing and printed edition. Artcurial pre-sale estimate: 60,000 – 120,000 Euros / $66,000 – 132,000 (each). Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016.
By Paul Ben-Itzak
Copyright 2016 Paul Ben-Itzak
Several years ago, taking the Thalys train from Paris to Brussels, I encountered a young Belgian psychologist who related how her grandmother had escaped from arriving at the death camps by jumping naked from a speeding train. So when I saw that the 20 original China ink drawings for a series of Christmas cards featuring Tintin and other characters — being auctioned off by Artcurial in Paris tomorrow for prices pre-sale estimated at a whopping $66,000 – $132,000 apiece — were designed by Hergé in 1942-43, I found it problematic that at a time when Belgian Jews were being deported from the occupied country to their deaths, Hergé was producing happy-go-lucky, business-as-usual Christmas cards to be sold to luckier Belgians.
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The prices fetched at auction for the relics of Hergé’s Tintin can seem outlandish, even with the comic book’s international renown. But one of the admirable effects of this hyper-valuation is that it has lifted the esteem of the entire field of what Hergé referred to, in his last, unfinished Tintin adventure, as the “alpha-art” or half-art. Everybody wins. So even if one is not quite ready to fork out between $900,000 and $1.4 million for the 13 1/2 x 28 3/8 original ink and paper drawing for the artist’s 1979 fresco decorating the staircase of the Wallonie-Bruxelles Cultural Center in Paris (reuniting every protagonist of the saga), the pre-sale estimate from Artcurial (which has singularly carved out a name for itself as the leading auction house for comic art) for its October 3 sale in Hong Kong, one can only applaud the heightened encadrement Hergé has brought to his field. Copyright Hergé / Moulinsart 2016 and courtesy Artcurial. — Paul Ben-Itzak