On the 210th anniversary of Victor Hugo’s birth, Christie’s is proud to announce the sale of The Hugo Collection on April 4th. An important group of nearly 500 books, paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs, furniture and other personal objects, the collection constitutes a remarkable testimony of the lives of Victor Hugo and his descendant, Charles, Georges and Jean. Estimated in the region of €1 million, the sale will give the public an insight into 4 generations of this renowned family.
Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Numerous drawings, books, furniture and other personal objects relating to the life of the great French novelist and poet will be offered at auction. The Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts section includes works concerning Victor Hugo’s intellectual and political life, as well as his private life. Of particular interest are several letters sent to close friends, including a letter signed “Victor” to Adèle Foucher, written during the 1820s. The “letter to the fiancée” reveals his affection for his future wife “Dear, very dear friend, I will tell you again for the thousandth time that I love you, that I adore you, and if you also love me a little, you will always find new pleasure in hearing it, as I am always delighted to repeat it” (estimate: €3,000-€5,000). Other important items include a letter from Victor Hugo to his future father-in-law, Pierre Foucher, after his engagement with Adèle Foucher (estimate: €2,000-€3,000) and another written to his son François-Victor, concerning his daughter Adèle (estimate: €1,500-€2,000).
In the section Old Masters and 19th-century Drawings, 50 or so very rare and much in demand drawings by Victor Hugo, will be presented at auction for the first time. Two of particular importance, in ink on wood, entitled Live and Die are presented as a pair of China ink drawings on three attached wood boards and estimated between €100,000 and €150,000.
After being supportive of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte’s candidacy to the Republican presidency in 1848, Victor Hugo violently condemned the coup d’Etat of December 2nd 1851 and voluntarily exiled himself to Brussels. Following his strong rejection of the Empire, he wrote several important works including Napoleon the Little and History of a Crime, written in 1852 and The Punishments, published the following year. In memory of this short exile in Brussels, he produced Souvenir of Belgium, estimated at between €50,000 and €80,000. This wash drawing, which perhaps evokes the memory of a Flemish landscape, is presented in a poker-work frame by the artist. Victor Hugo then moved to exile in Jersey for three years from 1853 to 1855. On this island, he settled with his family in “Marine Terrace” and wrote of it: “Marine Terrace left on those who inhabited it at that time only dear and affectionate memories. The southern side of the house gave onto the garden, the north side onto a deserted road. […] The noise of the sea could always be heard. (Victor Hugo, William Shakespeare – Part I – Book I – Shakespeare, His Life.) It is this family softness that is depicted in Victor Hugo Bedroom at Marine Terrace. This watercolour sketched by Jules Laurens (1825-1901) and realised in 1855 is estimated at between €1,500 and €2,000.
Having been ejected from Jersey in 1855 for criticising Queen Victoria’s visit to France, he moved to Guernsey and purchased Hauteville House, which contained remarkable objects such as the extraordinary Manuscript Cabinet dating from the 19th century, used by Victor Hugo to store his manuscripts and conserved by the family (estimate: €5,000-€7,000); since nearly all Victor Hugo’s writings were bequeathed to the French state on his death, they are now housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Another souvenir from the house is a painting entitled The Temptation of St. Antoine, 16th- century Dutch school, in the style of Hieronymus Bosh. This painting was hung on the ground floor of the property, in the dark room used as a photography laboratory at the time, close to the “Tapestries” drawing room. A 19th-century screen in embroidered gold silk on a blue trefoil background is also from Hauteville House. Decorated with vases and flowering branches and featuring famous characters from works written by Victor Hugo such as Hernani, Doña Sol, Esmeralda and Phoebus, it is estimated at €3,000 to €5,000.
Charles Hugo (1826-1871)
During his exile in Jersey, Victor Hugo developed a passion for photography. In 1852, he meets the precursor of the snapshot, Edmond Bacot (1814-1875). He shared the same Republican sympathies as the poet and the two become regular correspondents, also exchanging photographs. In one of his letters, Victor Hugo writes of his son’s interest in the medium: “You send me marvels, sir. We admire them although we cannot yet imitate them. My son, who would like to follow you, if only from afar, asks if you could provide a very detailed written lesson.” Two signed books Photography on Paper, Procedure Using Plate Glass…, Jersey May 1853, are the result of this initiation (estimate: €8,000-€12,000). Motivated by his father, Charles learned quickly how to use this new medium.
The discovery of photography was a revelation for Victor Hugo, who showed great interest in this medium and understood that he had the perfect tool to promote his exile and political convictions. The “Jersey Studio” produced many important photographs. Indeed, assisted by the poet and French journalist Auguste Vacquerie (1819-1895), Charles realised numerous snapshots immortalizing the Hugo’s family life. Among these, the auction will offer four portraits on paper of Victor Hugo, produced between 1853 and 1855 (in one lot: estimate €4,000-€6,000) and a portrait of Adèle Hugo, Charles’s sister, estimated at €10,000 to €15,000. Finally, a series of 24 prints (estimate: €600-€800), including numerous landscapes, provide additional testimony to the writer’s life in Guernsey.
Charles was very interested in politics. In 1848, three years before the exile, he found with his father and his brother François-Victor the political magazine L’Evènement. On 16th May 1851, he published an article against the death penalty which earned him six months’ incarceration in La Conciergerie. When he left prison, he joined his father in Belgium, Jersey and then Guernsey. In 1868, at the end of these years of exile, Charles wrote Victor Hugo in Zealand, which covers his father’s exile in Belgium and makes political allusions to the power of Napoleon III. This original edition, accompanied by a letter from Victor to Charles and a photo bearing the dedication “To my charming little Gavroche” is estimated at €1,500-€2,000.
Georges Hugo (1868-1925)
Writer and painter Georges Hugo (1868-1925) was Victor Hugo’s grandson. Adored by his grandfather, several testimonies illustrate the close bond and tenderness of their relationship. Several of Georges’s dictations, corrected in his grandfather’s hand, are included in the sale. These touching manuscripts illustrate the life of the attentive and tactful patriarch. From 1869, Victor Hugo’s notes are littered with amusing anecdotes concerning Georges and Jeanne. On 31st July 1870, he wrote: “My little Georges (…) has given me the name Papapa.” Several of these notes and letters addressed to his grandchildren are assembled in a lot estimated at between €2,000 and €3,000.
Some books from Georges Hugo’s library will also be included in the sale, such as an original edition by Victor Hugo entitled “The Last Day of a Condemned Man”, given and dedicated to Georges Hugo by Victor Schœlcher (1804-1893), thinker and statesman, at the origin of the abolition of slavery in France (estimate: €1,000-€1,500). A magnificent manuscript by the frères Goncourt, written to the editor Charpentier for the 1890 edition, is also coming from this same library. This hand written copy constitutes a major discovery since the numerous notes and crossings-out present in the text show a part of the preparatory work of Edmond Goncourt for his journal’s edition (estimate: 30,000-50,000).
The auction will also present a collection of watercolours, gouaches and pastels by Georges Hugo including a series of 10 watercolours on paper representing landscapes (estimate: €1,000-€1,500) as well as a group of 40 works on paper evoking war scenes of World War I (estimate: €1,500-€2,000).
Jean Hugo (1894-1984)
Great-grandson of Victor Hugo (1802-1885) and son of Georges Hugo (1868-1925), Jean Hugo (1894-1984) spent his youth with his maternal grandmother Aline Ménard-Dorian, vice president of the Human Rights League and a friend of Victor Hugo. She hosted the “Republican Salon” whose guests included Emile Zola, Alphonse Daudet, the Goncourt brothers, Rodin and a number of politicians, at rue de la Faisanderie in Paris. She also inspired Proust for the character of Madame Verdurin in Remembrance of Things Past along with Madame Marguerite de Saint-Marceaux and Madame Gaston Caillavet. In 1919, Jean Hugo married Valentine Gross (1887-1968). The couple were influential figures on the Parisian art scene, including the surrealist movement, and distinguished themselves by creating celebrated costumes and sets for Jean Cocteau’s plays, including “The Wedding on the Eiffel Tower” (1921). A few sketches relating to this show, such as a draft of the hunter’s costume, circa 1920 (estimate: €2.000-€3.000) are offered for sale.
Jean Hugo was friends with many leading figures such as Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), the multi-talented French poet and artist, who, along with Erik Satie, was a witness at his marriage to Valentine. In 1929, Jean Hugo decided to withdraw to a calmer life at the Mas de Fourques near Lunel. Jean Cocteau often visited, as testified by the numerous drawings and sketches on Mas de Fourques headed paper, for instance the four studies of Jean Hugo’s dog Mousco (estimate: €2,000-€3,000) and a portrait of Jean Hugo and Jean Desbordes (illustrated left – estimate: €800-€1,200). Another object from the Mas is an astonishing pedestal table, The Talking Pedestal Table, used for spiritualism séances between friends (in particular Valentine Hugo, Georges Auric and Raymond Radiguet) “on which Cocteau, a few years earlier, had read [his poem] The Cape of Good Hope”. This pedestal table notably predicted the sudden death of Raymond Radiguet (1903-1923), a young 20th-century French writer, who won great critical and public acclaim for his two novels: The Devil in the Flesh and Count d’Orgel’s Ball. This Napoleon III pedestal table, in black lacquered and polychrome wood, with its tilting top decorated in flowers and foliage, sites on a tripod base (estimate: €1,200-€1,800).
When Jean Hugo withdrew from his hectic life in Paris, he devoted himself to painting often guided by the theme of human beings and nature in their various metamorphoses. He distinguishes himself, for instance, with a canvas entitled The Metamorphosis, 1929 (estimate: €40,000-€60,000, illustrated right), a representation which takes us to the heart of pictorial experience. His retirement was interrupted by his travels and in 1931 he discovered Brittany for the first time. He was drawn by the differing light of the southern region, as can be seen in Breton Landscape, Sainte Anne, tempera on canvas painted in 1932 (estimate: €3,000-€5,000) and where he will practice his exceptional talents of colourist and show his strong interest for nature.
The auction will present a few emblematic objects from the friendships of Jean Hugo, such as a Transat Chair by Robert Mallet-Stevens (1886-1945) produced circa 1927-1928, given to Jean Hugo by the Viscount Charles de Noailles (estimate: €3,000-€5,000, illustrated left). This chair comes from the Villa Noailles in Hyères, outlined by Mallet Stevens in 1923. The Noailles received numerous visitors: the Giacometti brothers, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray and Jean Hugo himself. In another sign of their friendship, for an exhibition Jean Hugo created an object called “the magic box” for the “Bal des Matières” organised by the Noailles in Paris in 1929. This object contains 31 sheets of painted glass. These narrate the story of “Magician Faust” and form a box, designed to be lit from within (estimate: €3,000-€5,000).
The story one one famous family..
The collection is also enhanced by a range of other objects illustrating family memories, such as a set of three Louis Vuitton trunks bearing the monogramme of Aline Ménard-Dorian and of Georges Hugo (estimate: €2,500-€3,500 illustrated right), a bridal tiara which belonged to Léopoldine (1824-1843), Victor Hugo’s daughter. Collectors will also find a series of photographs relating to the Hugo family, along with several portraits including Victor Hugo Hands Folded Leaning on a Table, taken by Félix Nadar (1820-1910) in 1862 (estimate: €3,000-€4,000), and another one by Etienne Carjat (1828-1906) entitled Forward-facing Bust Portrait of Victor Hugo produced in 1872 (estimate: €7,000-€9,000 illustrated left). Etienne Carjat and Félix Nadar were major 19th-century portrait artists and produced some of the finest portraits of the writer, whose distribution contributed to his notoriety. Madame Victor Hugo is also represented in Madame Victor Hugo in Guernsey in the Garden of Aloes, 1853-1855, photographed by Charles Hugo’s friend Auguste Vacquerie (estimate: €1,000-€1,500) as well as Juliette Drouet in Double Portrait of Juliette Drouet (Victor Hugo’s mistress for nearly 50 years) produced by the Guemar brothers in 1868 (estimate: €1,000-€1,500).
Sale: On Wednesday 4th April 2012 at 11:30am and at 2.30 pm
Viewing: Saturday 31st March from 12 noon to 6pm – Monday 2nd and Tuesday 3rd April from 10am to 6pm.
Christie’s: 9 Avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris