Issue #61  8/5/2003
Beaussant Lefevre Sells Cartier Bresson, Le Gray and Man Ray

Beaussant Lefèvre's auction on May 27th consisted of mostly autographs and royalty items with only 128 photography lots out of a total of 367 lots in the sale, unlike previous summer photography-only auctions by this house. There were some additional lots in the royalty area that contained photography. Pierre-Marc Richard is the photography expert at this house and the auction went off at Richelieu Drouot.

The top lot in the sale was a Henri Cartier-Bresson, Seville, 1933 (lot 112). This had some light repairable edge damage, which was noted in the catalogue listing, but was a larger and less damaged print than the badly stained one at Phillips last spring sale. It appeared to be vintage or at least an early print from the 1940s. It had good presence despite the minor damage. It sold to a French order bidder for 19,578 euros (over $22,500) including the 17.94% buying premium and VAT. The dollar was dropping and so was worth about $1.15 at this sale. The price was in the mid part of the estimate range.

The next big lot was a Gustave Le Gray of the French fleet at Cherbourg, August 1858. The print was not particularly strong and had a small repaired hole. It was a scarce and decent image, however. It went to the same French commission bidder for 18,280 euros (about $21,000). The final price was just over the high estimate.

The next big lot (lot 113) was a Man Ray (André Breton, Communication Relative au Hasard Objectif, 1934), which was estimated at 8,000-10,000 euros and quickly soared over that estimate to 15,332 euros with premium (about $17,600). It sold to a phone bidder.

The sale also had 58 oriental items, mostly Japanese albums. The quality varied dramatically. The best ones were, however, very good indeed, and they went for top dollar.

Lot 133, an album of 50 wonderfully painted portraits of Japanese women, sold to Dutch dealer Ton Peek for 8,256 euros (about $9,500) after a heated floor battle. These were late (1890c) but just exquisite prints.

French dealer/collector Nicolas Derville and English dealer and Japanese expert Terry Bennett teamed up to buy the next four lots. Lot 134 a nice mixed album of 100 Japanese images sold to the pair for 7,666 euros (about $8,800, which is what I figured the retail on this group). The two bought Lot 135, an album of 144 photographs by Uchida, Hikoma and others. There were some sought-after Aino images in the group, but many of the images had offset the hand coloring on the image opposite. Again Derville and Bennett paid 7,666 euros (about $8,800) for this lot. The pair then bought the next two lots of Japanese albums for 4,482 euros (about $5,150) each.

Most of the material here though was again pretty low level and disappointing for the most part, although the sell-through rate was better.