Seven auctions are scheduled at Drouot in June to continue the dispersion of the considerable legacy resulting from the Aristophil company's bankruptcy when its directors were convicted of fraud.
On sale on 16 June with Aguttes auction house.
Under the hammers of a string of auctioneers, the sales will be organised by themes, such as literature and music, to increase the prestige of pieces with collectors. Since the opening sale six months ago, we learn from Claude Aguttes that four auction houses have joined forces under the acronym OVA, (standing for "Aristophil sales operators"). On 16 March 2017, the Neuilly-sur-Seine-based auctioneer was appointed by the Paris district court to assist the receiver in coordinating the sales, after being tasked with safely housing the collection of 130,000 manuscripts and other lots (photographs, drawings and miscellaneous objects), and drawing up an inventory. Ader-Nordmann, Artcurial and Drouot-Estimations have been appointed by the court to stage the sales as well as Aguttes, on the administrator's recommendation. This panel had been previously selected through an invitation to tender by a "college of sages" consisting of Frédéric Mitterrand, Jean-Pierre Biron (his chief consultant when he was minister) and the experts Didier Griffe and Michel Maket. Their decision was based on criteria such as the company's sound standing and organisational ability to operate sales of this kind. According to Claude Aguttes, "The association will auction all the collections sold under joint ownership by Aristophil right through to the end" – a process that could involve up to 300 sales in a good half-dozen years. In his view, "it will give more visibility to outstanding works, while ensuring a steady rate of sales" to cope with the enormous size of this collection: the world's largest in private hands.
Treasures under the hammer
With its 900 lots, the second sale should be a little calmer than the opening session (totalling €3.8 M), which was disrupted by what Claude Aguttes calls "a group of objectors": former clients protesting against "the sacrifice" of their property. Pleasant surprises came from a letter from Napoleon and Josephine, knocked down for €280,000, and a 15th century illuminated manuscript (a French translation of "Alexander the Great" by Quintus Curtius), which fetched €640,000. The manuscript of Balzac's "Ursule Mirouët" went for €900,000 to the bookseller Jean-Claude Vrain, who was paradoxically investigated for collusion in this affair. Yet again, the most promising sale is the one devoted to precious manuscripts and books from the Middle Ages and Renaissance on 16 June, expected to make over €5 million. It notably includes the " Petau" Book of Hours (see photo), named after a possible 17th century collector, illuminated by the Touraine artist Jean Poyer, who ingeniously hollowed out the centres of the pages to set off his paintings. This has an estimate of between €700,000 and €900,000. For the record, it had been bought by Aristophil for €1.8 million at the sale of the Paul-Louis Weiller collection, staged at Drouot in April 2011 by Gros-Delettrez. Aristophil had sold it to its investors for €5 million. Meanwhile, the modern literature sale with Drouot-Estimations on 19 June, with a spotlight on poetry, includes a real gem: a draft of a draft, "Maudits soupirs pour une autre fois", a too little-known masterpiece by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, which could fetch between €250,000 and €300,000.