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Victor Hugo's Sun in the Clouds

On 13 October 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

La Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris preempted an ink drawing at the sale of the collection of two Hugo specialists with a wealth of intimate material.

Victor Hugo's Sun in the Clouds

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), Nuées et soleil et empreinte de pièce, black ink and wash painting on paper, 8 x 11.5 cm/ 3.14 x 9.27 in.
Result: €12,571

The menacing Tête de gargouille (Head of a Gargoyle), seemingly straight out of the historical novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, shared the spotlight with another drawing by the artist, Nuées et soleil, Empreinte de pièce (Clouds and Sun: Coin Impression). While they received the same score, €12,571, the latter was preempted by La Maison de Victor Hugo. Now open since the spring after lengthy refurbishment, the writer's home turned museum in Place des Vosges is staging an exhibition of his drawings, "The intimate world of genius", until November 21. A third work on paper by Hugo, a delicate Empreinte de fougère (Print of Fern:11 x 11.5 cm/4.3 x 4.5 in), fetched €5,943.

Jean and Sheila Gaudon were deeply interested in the great man of letters and the arts, and owned a major collection of autographs and personal documents as well as these few ink drawings. They included some notes for Les Misérables written on the back of a letter received from his son Charles while he was in Belgium with his partner, the actress Juliette Drouet, which sold for €4,000. Then a touching object he carried on him went for €2,628: the passport issued to the writer, then aged 69, with the following description: "Height 1m 69 c (5 feet 6 in). White hair. White eyebrows. Brown eyes. High forehead. Medium nose..." Armed with this asset, Victor Hugo traveled to Belgium in May 1871—a refuge for the man who had just resigned as a member of parliament not long after the death of his son Charles. Another instance of intimacy was a plaster cast of Juliette Drouet's hand (27 x 7 x 8.5 cm/10.6 x 2.8 x 3.3 in) attributed to Charles Simon Pradier (1786-1847)—James's brother—which garnered €2,400. Here, a whole part of Hugo's personal world was on offer to collectors.

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