Issue #29  4/28/2001
Pescheteau-Badin Sale Brings in a Half Million Dollars, Mostly On Le Dien-Le Grays

Springs showers bring May flowers, or so they say. Paris had quite a bit of both (rain and beautiful flowers of all types) this trip, as well as a respectable auction showing. Pescheteau-Badin had a reasonable 256-lot auction, sold well over 86% of it and brought in over a half million dollars (3,761,656 francs at about 7.3 francs to the dollar) for those lots sold. This isn't hot stuff (at least the dollar total) by normal New York City numbers, but it is decent for Paris. No market letdown here.

The action started with lot 5, an anonymous 1858 salt print from a paper negative. Large and beautiful, this scene was at La Grenouillere Croissy Bougival, a favorite spot for impressionist painters, including Renoir, who painted Le Bal a Bougival in 1883. I had spotted this image at an early preview at the expert Marc Pagneux's gallery and had determined that it was the one print that I absolutely wanted from the sale. Apparently and unfortunately fellow AIPAD dealer Robert Hershkowitz had also fallen in love with it. The bottom-line was that the final price quadrupled the high estimate, still a bargain in my opinion. I had won the print.

The next interesting group revolved around a new find, French photographers F. Chauvassaigne and the Vicompte de Vaux. Hershkowitz and I battled it out again on a nice scenic of a fallen tree over water. He won this time, but I was able to pick up several nice scenics later, plus one of the men in Oriental garb that were said to be self-portraits. Ken Jacobson, another AIPAD dealer, got the other "self-portrait".

The next real group of interest was a half dozen Baldus (or is this Balduses?). Most had wonderful color and some were matte salt prints, which are scarcer than the albumenized versions. Hershkowitz took the lovely Cimetiere Romain Arles No. 44 for 50,000 francs, plus the approximately 11% premium, which you will need to add into the lots below as well. Michael Sachs took the next one, Tour Magne a Nimes No. 7, for 60,000 francs. It was a particularly strong print of this image, perhaps the best that I have seen. The next lot (97) was light and was bought in. The Arc Antique a Orange brought 35,000 francs. French dealer Bruno Tartarin bought the Church of St. Gilles, No.15 for a very reasonable 16,000 francs--a steal considering the strong color on the print. The last image in this grouping (lot 100) wasn't particularly good and failed to sell.

The following group of Le Dien-Le Gray prints was both interesting and controversial. Some of the images--all Italian scenes--had been attributed to Caneva in the past, but now a joint stamp was found on some of the pieces. The problem is how to interpret the stamp. Did Le Dien do some of the images and Le Gray some? Or, as has been suggested by several observers, did Le Gray provide the printing and Le Dien, the negatives? In any case, the salt prints from paper negatives were quite lovely for the most part.

The first lot (101) went to Michael Sachs for 300,000 francs against Charles Nes and Robert Hershkowitz.

Charles and Bob battled it out on lot 102, one of my personal favorites. Nes came out on top at 150,000 francs. Lot 103 did finally go to a determined Hershkowitz for 100,000 francs.

My favorite print of this group was lot 104, Campagne Italienne, a beautiful lyrical scene of trees and an excellent print. The astute Leon Herschtritt scooped up the image for 300,000 francs. Leon may be slowing down a bit now that son Laurent has taken over the gallery, but he showed his intelligence here in buying such a great image at what looks to be a very reasonable price. The same image is reproduced in the Bokelberg collection's Happy Birthday catalogue on page 86.

The phone picked up lot 105 for 50,000 francs, another group of trees, but very light in color compared to the rest. Finally Hershkowitz also picked up the last lot of Le Dien-Le Gray, a shot of the Temple of Jupiter in Rome for a mere 60,000 francs. The print was decent and definitely a "buy."

I managed to overbid Hershkowitz on the next two lots, which were misattributed to Dr. W.H. Pigou. The albumenized salt prints from paper negatives were of the temples at Halebid, India. I believe them to be very rare original prints by Richard Banner Oakley in 1856 or 1857. Only four photographers were known to make the arduous trek to Halebid in the 1850s: Tripe, Pigou, Neil and Richard Banner Oakley. Of these, only Oakley is known to have worked in this paper negative size. Oakley's work was reproduced in The Pagoda of Halibeed (London 1859), published in an edition of 25 by T. M'Lean, but these prints are clearly earlier and look to be personal copies with personal inscriptions on the backs of the prints.

But on to Le Gray's Grande Vague. Ever since the Jammes sale, this print has been drawing attention, but it has finally come back down to earth. The print was a good average print with a few spots in the sky. A young German collector Aeneas Bastian bought the print for 650,000 francs (plus premium) against Hershkowitz as the underbidder. I had thought it might go one bid or so over 700,000 francs, so it sold a bit low for the quality.

After that everything was down hill.