Going to Paris for the Jammes sales was like going out with a very beautiful woman one more time after she had dumped you for someone else on the last date. Would Sheik Al Thani dominate the sale (or even bid) this time too? Would the French institutions preempt many or even most of the major lots? Would prices be insane with so much competition? Would the material hold up? After the first sale, would the hype hold up? Would it be another date with frustration, or would the auction be a bit more "fulfilling" this time around?
The first taste of the auction's material was a controlled one in London and New York City. In the latter city, Sotheby's pulled out all the stops (for my French friends, that means to do everything possible) to promote the sale right during AIPAD weekend, dampening sales for those of us who sell 19th century French material. The images chosen for the walls were--not unexpectedly--most of the top lots. They got a lot of attention and generally positive comment. Some of the items were frankly spectacular.
I flew into Paris the week before the sale in order to preview in relative peace. On Thursday I previewed the Piasa auction of the collection of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc at expert Marc Pagneux's gallery near Drouot. The Le Gray-Mestral images of Carcassonne were my favorite pieces, along with some of the early salt prints of sculpture attributed to Mestral. More on that auction a bit later.
On Friday I got to see the Jammes material in the quiet before the storm. Saturday was also easy to view. On Sunday the hordes descended. I was glad that I had come early. It must be said though that the Sotheby's staff--both from Paris and London--were at their very best. This auction experience was unlike any other that I have had in France. The staff was pleasant, professional, responsive and helpful. Material was well organized, considering how much of it there was. Kudos to all involved, especially Dr. Juliet Hacking, who was especially helpful and patient with me during a very hectic time. Follow-up staffs, from shipping to accounting, were also first-rate and easy to work with, even though shipping costs were a shock to even those used to French shippers' ridiculously high rates. As an example, the initial estimate for shipping six images to me in Philadelphia came out to approximately $2400.
One of the first things that you quickly learned upon entering the viewing rooms was that the French Government had declared 13 lots to be National Treasures (and I use those capital letters purposely). Many of the lots were not surprises. You expected the big lots, like the Niepce letters and "first photograph"; le Stryge; les Ramoneurs en Marche, Anterieur; and the oversized la Lingerie, Asile Imperial de Vincennes. But some of the other lots that were declared left many of us wondering how these were chosen, although most of the others were fine prints. On the other hand, many other lots that seemed to beg for National Treasure status were ignored.
The material was not only erratic (although generally much better than I had originally thought), but the estimates were virtually useless. While I expect that Andre Jammes had set some of the higher estimates, many of the lower ones seemed to have the hand of Sotheby's expert Philippe Garner on them. The wily Garner is known to like to spice up an auction with ridiculously low estimates on particularly magical images, sparking even more competition on the item. There were numerous lots that sold for seven to ten times the estimates, even though those ultimate winning bids could not be called foolish and indeed often still look very low. I have often said: bid the item, not the estimates. At this auction, you either followed that maxim or you lost.
On Tuesday, Piasa's auction of architectural material from Viollet-le-Duc's 1850s collection was a standing-room only event at Drouot. I had told Marc Pagneux that I thought he might have problems with much of the material, especially before the overwhelming Jammes sale. I think that he may have felt the same himself. But the auction was to prove me wrong with a stingy buy-in rate of only 11 out of the 103 lots and bringing in nearly $350,000 to the house with premium. While three of the bigger lots did fail to go, everything else did very well indeed, making one wonder about the two sales to follow. Please note that the Euro was about .885 to the dollar. With the 11% premium, you can almost figure that the Euros quoted below (all without premium) were about the same as dollars when you added in the premium.
The very poor, light and yellow le Stryge did buy in at 10,000 euros. Lot 31 and 33, salt print images of sculpture attributed to Mestral also bought in at 6,000 and 5,000 respectively. I thought the latter was actually a very reasonable price considering a companion piece of the same image but from the side brought 15,000 euros (plus premium of 11%) from Michael Sachs bidding for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It was a lovely image well worth the price. Unfortunately for Sachs and Tel Aviv, the Architecture and Monuments Museum preempted him. There were a lot of preemptions during this sale. Actually there were nearly as many preemptions in this sale as in the two sales at Sotheby's (18 versus 19), but a lot of the material here was historically, rather than artistically important.
I have explained the concept of preemption in previous newsletters, but it might bear mentioning here once again. The Preemption is a unique French law that gives the right to French museums and other public institutions to simply stand up at the end of the bidding on a particular lot and yell preemption. The institution then gets to "preempt" or replace the bidder at the last price bid. When practiced fairly, it is a good way to keep important items in a country's own cultural institutions.
Other top lots in this auction included: Lot 30, the Virgin and Infant attributed to Mestral, went to Pagneux for 10,000 euros; and Lot 50, a Le Gray-Mestral of the city of Carcassonne sold for 18,000 euros, only to get preempted. Early Mission Heliographique prints by this pair are very rare and bring top dollar and attention.
Lot 51, another Le Gray-Mestral, a general and horizontal view of the ramparts of Carcassonne, sold for 45,000 euros to Lee Marks, probably for collector Howard Stein, for whom she buys. This was the best print of the three Carcassonne images. Marks was fortunate to have been bid up on the image. Apparently the Ville de Carcassonne only had a budget of 30,000 each for these images.
Baudoin Lebon and I were not so fortunate on the next lot Lot 52, a vertical view of the ramparts by Le Gray-Mestral and the most "modern" looking image of the trio. I had another appointment and left a "holding action" bid with my friend and London dealer Daniella Dangoor. Apparently Lebon just overbid me at 29,000 euros, and, yes, was then promptly preempted. If only we had gone two more increments. Oh well.
Michael Sachs was successful on the next lot (53) at 10,000 euros, another Carcassonne ramparts, but later and anonymous. The image will go to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. But Sachs was to be frustrated once more when he was preempted on the cover lot by Henri Le Secq of Amiens, Cathedrale Notre-Dame, Arcs-Boutants Façade Nord at 17,500 euros.
Of course, this small sale was only the appetizer to tease the palate. The two big Jammes sales were up next.
Most of the normal New York and London players were in attendance (or had proxies bidding or phones scheduled), including a number of American museums, collectors and dealers.
American collector Michael Mattis, who was one of the top private bidders of these sales, had this comment when I asked him about the two Jammes Paris auctions: "All of us who live and breathe photography have our jaded moments--especially during auction previews--when we feel we've seen it all. To me, previewing the Jammes Collection was nothing like that: the freshness, quality and, yes, quantity and depth of the early French material was simply breathtaking."
Let us cut to the chase (which for my European friends, means to get quickly to the results). The Jammes sales both sold very well indeed, bringing in a total of nearly $11 million with the hefty (and getting heftier, starting with the April sales) Sotheby's premiums. The sell rate for both days was a very strong 86%. Nineteen lots were preempted, including most of the National Treasure-designated lots.
Malvern, PA-based photography dealer Charles Isaacs said, "When Sotheby's pre-applied for export licenses, they did the French government a favor. They saved them a lot of money. Denying the licenses discouraged foreigners from bidding, which ended up helping the French government, which got some of the greatest bargains in 19th century photographs, probably in the last decade."
I did talk with Sotheby's expert Philippe Garner about this. He told me that there were extensive discussions about how to handle this. In the end, the group decided that it wanted to have as many licenses as possible so that bidders would not be inhibited on those lots, and to get the French museums thinking on some of the lots. Apparently when Sotheby's applied for some of the licenses, the French institutions came back and granted a majority of the licenses, but insisted on reviewing the entire sale--something not a part of the original plan. They then came back with a list of items that went well beyond Sotheby's original applications.
The National Treasure designation clearly cooled the ardor of many and probably prevented several new records from being achieved. Even Garner told me, "It is certainly true to say that the fact of blocking export seriously inhibited bidding on several works."
A few dealers told me of strong-arm tactics by the French institutions that issued not-so-veiled threats to them if they bid on any of these items, although I myself did not hear these directly.
Many feel Jammes may have a case, if he wanted (which is a big if), against the French institutions for damages, which is what the new French laws were supposed to prevent. Several sources also noted that the Musée de Orsay appeared to have a relationship with one American dealer who bid up items just to their reserves to prevent their buying in. If items are bought in, they cannot be preempted; that is exactly what happened early in the second day to Lot 318, which was bought in at only 95,000 euros after it had been designated a National Treasure. The Musée de Orsay tried to preempt but was told that it could not do so on a bought-in lot. After that, several observers saw representatives from the Musée de Orsay pass notes to an important American 19th-century dealer, who then bid only up to the reserve on numerous lots. This "winning" bid was then followed promptly by a preemption by the Orsay. This pattern was repeated a number of times. Many in the room noted the connection and felt it inappropriate. I am not familiar enough with French law to say one way or another, and I am not quite sure why the Musée de Orsay could not just bid up to the reserve directly, but apparently on a preemption an institution is not forced to actually go through with the sale, but can evaluate the purchase over a 15-day period. Perhaps the period was necessary to get budget approval.
Despite the controversies swirling around the Orsay, preemption and National Treasure designation, the auction itself was--this time around--a much more interesting event for most attending. It was Sheik Al Thani who experienced the most frustration at this auction. More on that later.
This was a difficult auction to keep track of the bidders. The room was full and active, plus many bidders used different paddles (bidding for different clients, etc.). There were also a lot of new players, whom I was not familiar with. I tried to identify the bidders as best as I could, but I will be happy to make adjustments on the iphotocentral archive of these newsletters later if any of you need to make corrections. Just email me at email@example.com .
The Euro, as I said above, was at .885 to the dollar (it has since strengthened a bit, making it a little more expensive to pay after the sale), but Sotheby's premium is a stiffer 20% and the prices below include the premium already, so you should just multiply these figures by the .885 to get to the dollar amount. I am going to stick with mostly items that will factor out to over $25,000. There were a surprisingly high number of items that broke over this mark, because there were also a surprisingly high number of items that fell well under $4,000, or even $1,000. In fact, I counted 30 items on the first day that did not make $1000 even with the premium, although there were only two lots the second day in this category. Of course, this did not count buy-ins. This was indeed a very democratic sale. It is interesting and encouraging for beginning collectors to see that one of the world's premier photography collections contained so many items of reasonable value.
The beginning of the first day of the two auctions was not exactly a typical plunge into the action. The auction kicked off with 19th century photographic literature--certainly rare and important, but not the stuff of typical collectors' and dealers' dreams. The big question was how would it play? Well the quick answer is: it did as expected.
Lot 8 was the first lot to top my arbitrary $25,000 mark at 29,500 euros with premium (all numbers in this section will include the premium). This annotated copy of Arago's report to the French Chamber of Deputies concerning Daguerre's discovery, includes a first-hand report of the proceedings written into the six-page publication detailing exactly what happened. The item went to a commission bidder, who bought it for below its low estimate.
Manfred Heiting, flush from the sale of his photography collection to the Houston Museum of Art (more below), took the next lot, the official first issue of the first edition of Daguerre's manual. It is only one of three known. Heiting knocked down the lot for 55,950 euros, just above its high estimate.
I noticed a UK-based dealer Ken Jacobson buying more than a few of the more reasonably priced lots during this phase of the sale. Ken has always had an eye for rare photographic books.
For my fellow Daguerreian Society friends, I should mention some of the details of the very few daguerreotypes in this sale (a disappointment, because it is known that Jammes had quite a few more important dags stashed away). There were serious condition problems on most of the item, but this did not seem to stop the bidders.
The first daguerreotype was lot 25, an anonymous image of ruins of a Romanesque church with a very wide estimate of dates (1840-1845). While I put the date at the beginning of the range, I also felt the item was very beat up. It sold for 5,400 euros, still well below the low estimate.
Hans Kraus, Jr. took the next lot of an attractive image of a building in Rouen for a steep 19,150 euros--well over the high estimate, especially considering the heavy wipes on this plate.
Lot 27 went for 900 euros to the phone. I liked the image, but it had a small ding. It was certainly worth the bid though.
Lot 28 was by far and away the most interesting daguerreotype of the sale, it showed a religious nurse from the famed Hospice de Beaune taking care of the damaged arm of a boy, who looked like he went through a small war. There was a small wipe, but in an area above the boy's head. Pierre Apraxine, apparently bidding for the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, bid the item up to 18,000 euros against a persistent phone bidder. The original estimate was only 4,500-6,000 euros. I was surprised that the ville de Beaune or even the Hospice itself did not attend and preempt.
Paris dealer Serge Plantureux took the next group of dag stereos for 10,200 euros.
Lot 30, a beat-up group portrait, went to the phone for 5,040 euros. It looked nice in the catalog, but that is why you either come and preview yourself, or you hire someone to do it for you. We, and other dealers and appraisers, charge relatively little for this type of service, considering how much money we save clients.
Lot 31, another group portrait, was decent and went to the room for 1680 euros.
Lot 32 took us back to photo literature in an important way: this time to William Henry Fox Talbot and what was quoted as "the first separate publication on photography in the world," Talbot's Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing, or the Process by Which Natural Objects May Be Made to Delineate Themselves without the Aid of the Artist's Pencil. It sold for a solid 60,550 euros to Ezra Mack over Hans Kraus.
Mack also then took the next two lots of Talbot material (33 and 34) for 10,800 and 12,000 euros respectively, both times over a determined, but still losing India Dhargalkar, who may have been bidding for Michael Wilson. Both lots went for over double the high estimate.
In my opinion the Sheik Al Thani made his first appearance (or I should say impact, because he was bidding by phone once again) on lot 36, a very rare copy of Sir William Stirling-Maxwell's Annals of the Artists of Spain, which, with its 66 calotypes by Nicolas Henneman, is considered by some to be "the cornerstone of all modern artistic connoisseurship." He seemed to be competing with other phones on this one, but in the end he bought the lot for 22,600 euros, just below the high estimate. His number was LO66.
It was not surprising then that LO66 would be back on the very next lot (37), a lot described as "the first photographic document known" and largely inaccurately hyped in the world press as "the world's first photograph." The real value here was not the "first photograph" but the letters by Niepce, which were indeed priceless. The lot, estimated at 500,000-750,000 euros, had been one that was tagged as a National Treasure. LO66 decided to bid on this item in any case, although it was primarily against the reserve. At 500,750 euros (about $443,000), the phone had taken the lot, but only momentarily, because the Bibliotheque Nationale then promptly preempted it. Obviously the strategy to declare items "National Treasures" was done to keep bidders away and keep the prices low for French institutions, particularly the Musee de Orsay and the BN: it largely worked, even though this particular lot wound up as the highest price paid for a lot in these two sales.
The excitement would rise and the Sheik would not be back until lot 65. This lot was a bit strange, to say the least. Attributed to Baldus or to Bisson Freres, the print had come from an album, which was to be offered as lot 114 (more on that later). Images in the album, and--to a lesser extent--this image, showed strange mottling and swirls. The image in lot 65 was frankly like nothing I have ever seen by Baldus: a corner section of a non-descript building and a single small tree. Baldus nearly always shot the entire building and even put it in context, and most of his buildings are famous landmarks. To me the images in question looked more like the work of a very talented student with an excellent eye still learning his (or her) chemical technique. There are some images by both Baldus and Bisson in the album, so perhaps this was a student of one of these photographers (I would guess Baldus). In any case, the resulting image and print is extraordinary and has great "presence". Estimated at 45,000-60,000 euros, it seemed ready to skyrocket past this range, and it did. The initial action focused on dealers Hans Kraus and Jill Quasha, both apparently bidding for clients on this one. But as the price escalated, it was LO66 who was left standing (and paying the bill) at an astounding 335,750 euros (about $297,000), probably a world-record price for an anonymous photographic work. The lot wound up tied for the third highest priced lot of the two back-to-back Jammes sales.
A "real" Baldus was to provide some action just two lots later. Lot 67, Rochers en Auvergne, went for 78,950 euros (about $70,000) to American collector Michael Mattis, who bid by phone after coming and previewing in person.
Mattis, in discussing his purchases later, told me that "among our purchases were photographs that I've loved ever since college, including the remarkable Baldus waxed-paper negative "Rochers en Auvergne" [Lot 67] from 1854 which looks like the surface of Mars (especially with the reversed tones), and which was a wax-paper insert in the Art Institute of Chicago's lovely paperback book on the Jammes collection that I bought my freshman year."
Mattis also thinks, "That, among many other 'firsts', the Jammes auctions mark the long-awaited arrival of the waxed-paper negative as a fully valued component of the 19th century photography market." Since the price he bought this negative at is in record-setting territory, he must be right.
Just two lots later, another Baldus--this time a salt print positive of the Chateau d'Espailly--hammered down to another phone for 30,650 euros.
There had been considerable interest in the Victor Regnault prints prior to the sale, so it came as no surprise that this section of the auction did very well. Hans Kraus, bidding for a private collector, took a crowd up on the first lot (77), a beautiful river scene. A phone bidder (LO29) and dealer Lee Marks were the other prime contenders. But at 280,750 euros (about $248,500), Hans' client came out on top. It was clearly--to me at least--the best image and print of the group, but it came at a top price.
UK-based dealer Robert Hershkowitz took the next Regnault lot (78) for a shade under 50,000 euros. Then lot 79 was hammered down for 64,000 euros (about $56,650). Lot 80 went to Toronto dealer Jane Corkin for 23,750 euros, who also took lot 85 for 18,000 euros. Lot 81, one of the more interesting Regnault images and one of the few bargains in this group, went oddly enough to a phone bidder, LO58.
Hans Kraus took a rather poor Regnault print (lot 82) for 1,800 euros. I am at a loss as to why. Hershkowitz came back on lot 83, which was a decent print, at 19,150 euros, probably a good buy considering some of the other prices. Lot 84, a poor print, sold for 1,800 euros, but again, I do not know why.
Gary Sokol grabbed up lot 86 for just under 33,000 euros. Then another pitched battle over lot 87 pitted Hans Kraus against the phone (LO29 again) and Lee Marks. This time Marks came out on top at 258,750 euros (about $229,000). She was probably bidding for collector Howard Stein.
Finally, the next Regnault lot bought in (it was only an "attributed to" image, and a boring one of an English cathedral at that); and the last Regnault lot went to Robert Hershkowitz for 28,350 euros.
A nice Gustave Le Gray marine study of the sea and clouds sold to the phone for a mere 78,950 euros (about $70,000), which was a very good price. The image had wonderful tones, but it did have some scuffing that bothered me. It was similar to that seen on the Craven's Le Gray's from two years ago.
Next up was a group of Le Gray tree studies, which frankly left me unimpressed by their print quality. They universally looked considerably worse than they did in the catalogue.
The first one, a salt print from about 1849, did not do much for me. To my taste it had too much contrast and the sky was filled with light foxing. But what do I know: collector Michael Mattis took this for 37,550 euros over the active bidding by Malvern, PA dealer Charles Isaacs.
The next lot, a dupe of the first--only washed out, bought in.
Hans Kraus bought the next one, a good print of a Rock in the Forest (also about 1849), for a reasonable 64,000 euros (about $56,650). It was for a client. He also took lots 96 and 98 for 28,350 euros each. Neither was exactly stunning. The best of the group, lot 99, also went to Hans--this time for 44,450 euros, a very good bargain. Lots 97 and 100 were pretty bad and bought in as they should have.
After a number of spotty lots (some interesting and some not), the next big action came at lot 112, which turned into a bidding war between dealer Hans Kraus, and collector and Escher dealer Michael Sachs. Both were bidding for museums: Kraus reportedly for the Getty and Sachs for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Kraus came out on top on this one, taking the lot, a Camille Silvy of a boy and man at a street light during what looks like twilight, for a stunning 203,750 euros (about $180,000). The estimate was 45,000-60,000 euros, which--at least before the auction--was, I thought, stretching it a bit.
The next lot (113), the mysterious and beautiful Charles Simart album of salt prints, was one of only two lots designated as a National Treasure during the first day's action. The authorship is still unknown, perhaps by the artist Simart or someone of his circle. The blown-up nudes and still lifes of fruit in branches would be ideal for artist's studies, which perhaps they were. In any case, the NT designation scared off most bidders, but a phone bidder (not the sheik apparently) got the lot for the reserve of 335,750 euros (a little under $300,000). The lot was one of two so designated (National Treasure) that did not get preempted immediately after the sale, perhaps because of the unclear authorship or because the French museums ran out of funds for the moment.
Lot 114, the album that I referred to above in my description of the activity on lot 65, received a lot of action. In the final battle, between French dealer Serge Plantureux and Hans Kraus, it was the French that came out on top: the album sold for 44,450 euros against an estimate of 12,000-18,000.
The following lots of Bisson buildings were largely poor prints and weak images, which either sold very low or were bought in. It was good to see that the market was largely rational at this sale.
The mountain scenes by Bisson did a bit better, but virtually all sold at or below their low estimates. The top one was lot 135, a strong print, which Lee Marks bought for 10,800 euros, in the middle of its estimate range.
Lot 139, a Nadar salt print of Gustave Dore with Scarf, sold to a commission bidder (someone who left a bid with the house before the auction) for 44,450 euros. It was a good, but not exciting print, at least to my eye.
The Charles Marville album was certainly a great one, but at an aggressive estimate of 450,000-600,000 euros, it was unclear who could afford to buy it. Various observers put the interesting images at about 15 to 25, out of the 67 in the album. The print quality was magnificent on most of the images. Dealer Charles Isaacs, who just bought a flat overlooking NY's Museum of Modern Art (so I guess I will have to say NYC and Malvern, PA dealer now), and San Francisco dealer Robert Koch fought it out briefly. Koch was gracious in defeat, saying that he knew he could have pushed the price up, but saw no reason to do so to his competitor. Reportedly dealers Robert Hershkowitz, Hans Kraus and Howard Greenberg joined Isaacs on the lot, although none would confirm or deny this. Rumors held that they were planning to go as high as 675,000 euros, but they only had to bid 440,000 that with the premium meant 489,750 euros (or about $433,000). Isaacs did tell me that he "was very happy to get the album at what I paid for it." Isaacs indicated that they would first attempt to sell the piece intact. If that failed, word was (and not from Isaacs) that Greenberg would show the album in his gallery, making it the first 19th century show there. It was interesting that the album was not a National Treasure designation. Perhaps the French institutions missed one here, or they already had a copy, albeit certainly a weaker one. In any case, this was the second most expensive lot of the two days of sales.
After the lunch break, Robert Koch tried but failed to come back on lot 153, two very nice J. B. Greene salt prints of the Forest at Fontainebleau, which was knocked down ultimately to Michael Sachs for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art at 92,750 euros (about $82,000).
Koch was particularly interesting to follow in these sales. He seemed to me to be one of the most disciplined and intelligent buyers, focusing on the best material at the best price values and not being afraid to walk away from something he thought got too expensive (although I did think lot 153 was still very reasonable in the end). You may see what I mean below and in the next installment.
Another J. B. Greene--this time a negative of Cairo--sold to San Francisco collector Gary Sokol for 32,950 euros (about $29,000), after collector Michael Mattis on the phone and Cindy Herron (San Francisco collector Paul Sack's buyer) in the room bid it up. Lot 155 was a strong negative with a corner missing, but again it showed that 19th century paper negatives were showing new strength.
Lot 159, another J. B. Greene salt print of sculpture pieces (a particularly nice print) sold to the phone for well over estimate at 32,950 euros (about $29,000).
Sheik Al Thani got back into the action on lot 160, a J. B. Greene of an Egyptian Statute fragment. LO66 took the lot for 22,600 euros, over other active phones. It was a very bizarre and intriguing image and a good print.
Robert Koch came back on lot 161, perhaps the best group of J. B. Greene's in the sale. He took the six very fine landscapes in Algeria for a "mere" 126,750 euros (about $112,000) over fellow American dealer William Schaeffer. This was one of the "steals" of this day's auction activity.
Two lots of very poor Clifford prints bought in. They were mostly in terrible shape with heavy edge fading and yellowing. The catalogue images looked great compared to the actuality. One of these days we will see some great Cliffords at auction (it has not happened yet) that will easily set new world records at auction for this artist. Private sales over $30,000 have been made on single images.
The next lot (164) was one of the best Carlo Simelli cloud studies that I have seen. It was estimated at a very meek 6,000-9,000 euros. The battle was drawn among dealers Hans Kraus, Charles Isaacs and William Schaeffer--some bidding for clients. Kraus won the lot in the end for 39,850 euros (or about $35,000).
The following lot was a sleeper that I thought might provide an opportunity. It was a group of ten "anonymous" negatives of Rome estimated at 3,500-4,000 euros. It not only had the provenance of Charles Negre, but the negatives I had recognized as the work of Le Gray-Le Dien! When Hans Kraus started bidding against me, I thought, "Oh, well." But he dropped out fairly early. However, another bidder started to bid against me. When I finally saw that it was Le Gray expert Marc Pagneux, I realized that I was not the only person to have recognized the value of these negatives. Instead of driving up the price for either of us, I left the field to Marc, who bought the lot for only 32,950 euros (or about $29,000). When I mentioned the lot to Marc a little later, he smiled conspiratorially and told me that not only were the negatives Le Gray-Le Dien, but that he had recognized a Le Secq image in the group.
Lot 166, two paper negatives that are the earliest surviving images of Tahiti, had an estimate of 9,000-12,000 euros. That did not stop dealer Hans Kraus and Tajan auction expert and South Seas image collector Serge Kakou from battling it out to 32,950 euros (or about $29,000). In the end, Kraus took the prize.
The big lot of Mexican Charnays were in rather mixed condition and bought in at 58,000 euros, excluding premiums. The following lot of Madagascar Charnays fared somewhat better selling to LO66 for the reserve of 159,750 euros, making it the third highest lot of the afternoon. The Sheik also took lot 174, Auguste Mariette-Bey's Voyage dans la Haute-Egypte, a rare volume of heliogravures, for 23,750 euros.
Lot 179, an 1865c album by Andreas Groll, an Austrian photography pioneer, sold to a woman in the room for 30,650 euros.
The next batch of excitement came on some images of and by Edgar Degas. The first image (lot 205) of a group including Degas had been estimated at 75,000-100,000 euros. After spirited bidding from dealers Jane Corkin and Paul Hertzmann (perhaps for his own collection of painters?), Corkin wound up with it at 236,750 euros (or about $210,000), the highest priced lot of the afternoon.
Corkin also took the next lot, a small self-portrait, which had been estimated at 2,500-3,500 euros, for 21,450 euros against Robert Flynn Johnson of the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums' Palace of the Legion of Honor. Johnson was to buy the next lot, a quirky group with Degas taken by Walter Barnes, for a much more reasonable 3,360 euros.
Manfred Heiting, who is reportedly building a photography book collection, purchased the very fine copy of Camera Work in the sale for 181,750 euros (about $161,000), over an admittedly teasing estimate of only 60,000-80,000 euros.
A copy of the Roger Parry-Leon-Paul Fargue collaboration Banalite with actual silver prints (instead of the normal heliogravure plates) sold for 36,400 euros (a little over $32,000) against another low estimate of 4,500-6,000 euros. The condition of the prints was not the greatest in this copy.
A modernist study of a tower looking down at boats in the water in Marseilles by Germaine Krull sold to Cindy Herron, Paul Sack's photo buyer, for 28,350 euros, but then was promptly preempted by the Musee National d'Art Modern (Georges Pompidou).
Another Krull study of eight photographs taken from a moving car (lot 260) sold for 51,350 euros (about $45,450). The group tempted French dealer Marc Pagneux, German collector and curator Dietmar Siegert, and the phone. In the end Pagneux came out on top.
The final lot of the day (268) was a group of 70 prints of bistros and other Paris scenes by Robert Doisneau. I thought the group was very overpriced at the estimate of 75,000-90,000 euros. There were very few images that were strong (pretty much only the images actually illustrated in the catalogue). It sold to the room for 75,500 euros (about $67,000).
I will be sending Part II of the Jammes sale shortly, as well as the results of the Spring auctions in New York City, which generally did well.