(Paris) A drawing by Hergé for the cover of Tintin’s album The Blue Lotus on Thursday broke the world auction record for comics, with 3.2 million euros including fees, Artcurial announced.
“After a bidding battle between three phones, this coveted masterpiece finally soared to 3,175,400 euros” ($ 4,873,105), the auction house reported in a statement. The buyer is a “private collector”.
Sold by the Casterman family in Paris, this 1936 drawing, in India ink, gouache and watercolor, with a black background, was ultimately deemed too thin and complex for the comic strip to be printed. It has been replaced by a simpler red background design.
The history of this unique piece remains a mystery. According to the heirs, it had been offered by the Belgian designer, Georges Rémi of his real name, to the son of the publisher Louis Casterman, Jean-Paul, aged 7, who had folded it in six and put it in a drawer. .
Experts question the veracity of Jean-Paul Casterman’s story, which is difficult to verify nowadays.
For several Tintin specialists, the fold marks on the sheet of paper are the work of the author himself, who would have slipped the drawing into an envelope to send it to the deputy director of the publishing house. The drawing would have remained since 1936, with many others, on deposit with Casterman.
The Blue Lotus is a major milestone in Tintin’s saga, inspired by his meeting with a young Chinese graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, Tchang Tchong-Jen, who will remain his faithful friend.
The plates appeared in 1934 and 1935 in the review The little Twentieth, before the album’s publication in 1936, and were immediately seen as a major work in the history of comics, proving at the time the seriousness of this new literary genre. Generation after generation, success has never wavered.
The previous record was 2.51 million euros (costs included again) ($ 3.85 million) for the design of the cover pages of Tintin’s albums, at Artcurial in 2014.
Comics have aroused the interest of an increasingly wealthy buying public in recent years.
“At first, comic book collectors were avid, but now with such high prices, the market also attracts investors and speculators looking for higher returns,” said Rob Salkowitz, an expert in this market.
Hergé had solidly documented himself to realize this fifth episode of the adventures of the little reporter. He avoids the clichés that have among other things cataloged Tintin in Congo (1931) as marked by the racism of the colonial era.
After the fantasies and incredible adventures of the first albums, Manichean in comparison, the register is more serious, humanist and realistic, in this plot where drug trafficking and armed intervention from Japan tragically mingle.
On this drawing for the cover, the anguish can be read on the features of Tintin and Snowy, which protrude the head of a bluish earthenware jar, facing a frightening blood-red dragon, against a background of a black wall dotted with mysterious signs .