by Brooke Kennedy
Art, history, and culture converge in RR Auction’s June Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction featuring animation. This auction put the spotlight on concept art and production cels, providing collectors a chance to own pieces from their childhood favorites. But you could also find coveted Hollywood signatures, rare books, and other handwritten material. While animation was the star, history and fine art still climbed their way to the top spots before the timer ticked down to zero.
Despite his work being notable for its nude subjects, Edouard Manet actually quite enjoyed women’s fashion – as is the case with this illustrated letter. Manet’s letter to the wife of his friend Jules Guillemet is brilliantly adorned with watercolor paintings of bags (or “pochettes” as Manet liked to call them) of different shapes, sizes, and colors. In his letter, Manet asks its recipient to pick the watercolor design she prefers so he can bring it along with him to Paris for her.
In part, his letter reads, “I will probably go to Paris these days and I will bring you in exchange a pink, a yellow, or a blue to your liking. Write me what you want and the form; write me whatever you want.” Manet even signs off his letter with a traced portrait of the recipient’s husband, Jules. Our consignor was impressed with the eye-watering hammer price of this sale and is glad that this one-of-a-kind piece will find a new home with one of our ecstatic collectors.
Alexander Fleming’s development of penicillin in 1928 was a game changer for medicine, but Fleming didn’t entertain its use as a pharmaceutical drug until 1945. That same year he documented the uses for penicillin in this detailed rough draft manuscript. Fleming intended to use his writings during an interview with Joe Bolton of the Office of War Information for a Voice of America broadcast near the end of World War II.
In part his manuscript reads, “I have been asked to talk to you on penicillin. The story of penicillin has been often told. A culture plate with which I was working in London in 1929 became contaminated by a mould. This mould was discovered to produce a substance which had a very powerful destructive action on many of the common bacteria which infect man. It belonged to the botanical class of Penicillium so I called the substance Penicillin.” Fleming would go on to win the Nobel Prize for his discovery shortly after he penned this manuscript.
Mary Blair’s concept art has continued to be a staple of RR Auction’s animation auctions, and RR Auction has become the go-to auction house for collectors looking to add her work to their collections. A concept artist for some of Disney’s earliest features, Blair’s work helped inform the color styling of films like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and – one of Disney’s most controversial features – Song of the South.
This concept art for Song of the South – sold for $28,489 – displays Br’er Fox leading Br’er Bear and a captured Br’er Rabbit down a trail towards a blazing orange sunset. Disney’s Song of the South adapts the Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris, specifically the adventures of Br’er Rabbit. Taking a look at Blair’s work for the film, it’s evident how much of her work influenced the aesthetic of the film’s animated settings and character designs. While the film has been highly criticized since its release, it has seen various spin-off books, comics, and even its own ride in Splash Mountain – all of which feature recreations of the designs by Mary Blair. This sale exceeded our client’s expectations, more than tripling its original estimate of $8,000.
Another exciting sale of Blair’s work, this next piece realized double its $10,000 estimate for its consignor. Along with concept art for Song of the South, bidders took interest in Blair’s works from another one of her films – and even one of Disneyland’s famous attractions.
Everyone is familiar with the child-like whimsy of It’s A Small World, but did you know that Blair was a concept artist for the ride? Though she was no longer working for Disney at the time, Walt asked Blair to design concepts for the future Disneyland attraction. The facial features of the cosmonaut children bear a striking resemblance to the ride’s final animatronics, and the ride’s architecture and scenery are undeniably Mary Blair.
Last but not least in this auction’s list of top sellers is a Blair panoramic of Cinderella’s flight to the ball for 1950’s Cinderella. Blair’s darkly rendered scene of Cinderella’s carriage under the light of the starry night makes the scene truly stunning. Blair was one of Walt Disney’s favorite artists and not only did she color style the film, but she also designed concepts for Cinderella’s dress transformation – his all-time favorite scene of animation.
If you missed our monthly auction, don’t fret! There is still time to register and place bids on our upcoming Marvels of Modern Music auction ending June 22nd. We also hold auctions every month highlighting the various pieces from all throughout history, so if seeing our results inspired you – click the button below to consign with RR Auction! You can also reach our professionals by dialing 800-937-3880.
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