As most of you found out for the first time in our newsletter (we broke the story in the media), Jammes Sale II (general sale with emphasis on French images) and III (the archive of Charles Negre) are scheduled for March 21 and 22 in Paris at Sotheby's new posh auction facilities. Sotheby's says it will be the largest ever dispersal of photographs from a single collection, with the material presented in two catalogues. That may be a little presumptuous, considering that several major archives of hundreds of thousands (even millions) of images have been sold in the past. And certainly the values associated with the collection might be deemed to be presumptuous.
Perhaps Andre Jammes thinks he will have Sheik Al Thani bidding again at this auction. It certainly seems that way. With estimates on many items that are considerably higher than current gallery retail, this sale will either set new price standards for French material, at least some of it fairly easy to find on the market, or will be another casualty of consignor excess and ego. The gossip on the street is that Jammes was extremely tough in his negotiations this time around with Sotheby's Philippe Gardner. Other sources tell me that Al Thani may either be less active or not active at all in this sale. Apparently his uncle, the Emir, has asked him for some restraint in his purchases. We shall see. Certainly bidders in many instances may only be bidding against what we anticipate will be rather high reserves.
Rumors also had Sotheby's and Jammes negotiating with the Musee de Orsay even into this fall over the Charles Negrè material. The museum reportedly felt that Jammes overvalued the material. Some think the sale is Jammes' way of forcing the Orsay's hand.
Certainly there are some spectacular pieces in the sale. Let us start with what Sotheby's is calling the earliest recorded image created by photographic means: a heliogravure by Nicéphore Niépce. The estimate range without buyers' premium is 500,000-750,000 euros. You can figure that the euros are dollars plus another seven percent after Sotheby's rather steep buyers' premium is added in. I just round it up 10% additional. It is easier to figure the final price.
As the Sotheby's press release indicates (and the below is their language, adjectives and all), items of particular note include:
--a rare series of studies by Victor Regnault in and around the manufactory at Sèvres (estimates between 3,000 and 75,000 euros)
--a fine series of studies in the Forest of Fontainebleau by Gustave Le Gray, and a fine seascape and a rare architectural study from his Mission Héliographique by the same photographer (estimates between 7,500 and 120,000 euros)
--a fine print of Nadar's celebrated portrait of Gustave Doré (estimated at 37,500-52,500 euros)
--an important album of 67 photographs by Charles Marville of a central area of old Paris before its destruction as part of the ambitious rebuilding projects of Haussmann (estimated at 375,000-525,000 euros)
--architectural studies by Edouard Baldus and Bisson Frères and alpine views by the latter (estimates between 12,000 and 45,000 euros)
--rare and important early experiments in heliogravure by Hippolyte Fizeau (estimated at 3,750-9,000 euros)
--a remarkable album of artist's studies including large format nudes and close-ups of plants, from the circle of the sculptor Simart (estimated at 300,000-375,000 euros)
--studies of historic ruins in ancient Mexico and a remarkable series of topographical and ethnographical studies in Madagascar by Desiré Charnay (the latter estimated at 150,000-225,000 euros)
--works by the Impressionist painter, Edgar Degas, foremost amongst these a remarkable, intimate indoor group study including the artist (estimated at 75,000-100,000 euros)
The first part of the sale also includes some 20th century pieces including a series of photographs by Germaine Krull, notably her images of the structure of the Eiffel Tower and a sequence of photographs made from a moving car; studies of steam railway engines by Eli Lotar; a collection of 77 photographs by Robert Doisneau; and portraits of famous French personalities by Laure Albin-Guillot.
The second part of the sale is the Charles Negre archives, which range from the sublime (re: extremely high estimates) to the next to worthless. Images in the former category include: Charles Nègre's "Le Stryge", circa 1853, with its negative, estimated at 180,000-240,000 euros and Charles Nègre's chimney sweeps walking, circa 1851, estimated at 120,000-180,000 euros, although these two will probably bring even more than these already high estimates, especially the Stryge.
You can preview a small portion of this sale at Sotheby's New York from February 14-18 and then the sale itself from March 15-20 at Sotheby's, Galerie Charpentier on 76 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris.