Historians of big auction prices remember two important results achieved by Christie's in New York on collections of Audubon prints. Both had been recorded on the main work of this artist, The Birds of America. The four volumes contain the complete set of 435 hand-colored etchings.
These prints are in folio double elephant size, the largest known format for an illustrated book: 100 x 67 cm. Christie's had successively received $ 3.7 million in 1992 and 2.75 million in 1993.
Thank you to Artvalue for having recorded this information.
This gigantic dimension is related to the goal that John James Audubon had for the great work of his life: he wanted that all his birds are represented in their natural habitat, life size even for the biggest. American, he had to explore to England to find a publisher: he was Robert Havell, of London. The publication took twelve years (1827-1838). This duration was not exceptional at that time for such an ambitious book.
In its sale of 23 and 24 February in New York, Sotheby's offers four of these prints:
the American Flamingo, Plate CCCCXXXI (Lot 76, est. $ 100 K)
the Carolina Parrot, Plate 26 (Lot 69, est. K $ 70), showing a group of birds of this species that disappeared afterwards,
the Snowy Owl, Plate CXXI (Lot 70, est. K $ 70) a night scene with two birds,
the Wild Turkey, Plate 1 (Lot 68, est. K $ 50).
These prices are comparable to what is found in Artvalue for similar prints, but the condition is not perfect.
The results are interesting. The best price, $ 120 K premium included, has been successively reached on the most aesthetic image (the owls) and on the most famous (the flamingo).
The group of parrots, a little mess, reached $ 86 K including premium.
The turkey, who twisted too much his neck for entering life size in the format of the page, remained unsold. Yet he had the lowest estimate of the four.
Suppose that these four plates were in a similar condition (it was to be analysed during the exhibition). If so, we conclude that aesthetics still play a role in prices in this market sector.
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