Auctions | May 8, 2019

The Library of R. & B. L.: Autographs and Manuscripts of Writers, Musicians, Painters at Sotheby’s Paris

Courtesy of Sotheby's

Guillaume Apollinaire. POÈME AUTOGRAPHE À LOUISE DE COLIGNY-CHÂTILLON (LOU), SIGNÉ GUI, DATÉ 28 AVRIL 1915. Estimate €20,000-25,000

Paris — On 22 May, Sotheby’s, in association with Binoche & Giquello, will auction off the eighth sale of the Library of R. & B. L. It will mark the end of the dispersal, begun in 2011, of this substantial literary collection built over more than sixty years. It was assembled on the same principle, intermingling books and autograph letters of French literature, music and the arts from the 16th century to the present day.
The last part of the collection is dedicated to 19th- and 20th-century writers, musicians and painters. This remarkable ensemble puts correspondence together with literary texts, musical scores alongside original drawings.
Guillaume Apollinaire
The part devoted to writers begins with seven superb letters from Guillaume Apollinaire to Louise de Coligny Chatillon, known as Lou. On 28 April 1915, Apollinaire, who had just reached the front, wrote her a long autograph poem (Lot 7 – estimate: €20,000-€25,000). In it, he pays homage to each of Lou’s five senses and refers to his lover’s physical charms, the memory of which consumed him. In another autograph letter (Lot 8 – estimate: €20,000-€25,000) dated 11 May, he wrote her a new poem, Rêverie, in which he associates love and war.
Jean Cocteau
A major and unpublished group of letters signed by Jean Cocteau to Valentine Hugo, dating from 1915 to 1922 (Lot 17 – estimate: €25,000-€35,000) is illustrated with eight original drawings. In May 1914, Cocteau met Valentine Gross, the woman who married the painter Jean Hugo, great-grandson of Victor Hugo, in 1919. At the time, the poet was writing The Cape of Good Hope and creating the ballet Parade with Erik Satie and Pablo Picasso. Their friendship would be particularly fruitful between 1917 and 1924: in 1917, Valentine would serve as an essential intermediary for Parade’s collaborators, then, with Jean Hugo, she would craft the costumes for the 1921 ballet The Wedding Party on the Eiffel Tower.

Over the course of this copious correspondence, Cocteau recounts this very busy time in his life of creative and worldly activities. From day to day for nearly five years, we follow the development of Parade and read about the writer’s fears and joys, encounters and travels.
Blaise Cendrars
Finally, an extraordinary set of autograph manuscripts follows the genesis of the writing of Panama, from the very first draft to the corrected proofs (Lot 15 – estimate: €30,000-€40,000). This poem – begun in October 1912, at the same time as Prose on the Trans-Siberian Railway and of Little Jehanne of France, and completed in July 1914 – marked a decisive turning point in the poet’s life. On 28 September 1915, while a volunteer in the French army, Cendrars lost his right arm and it was by using his “main amie” (“hand friend”), as he liked to call it, that he finished this text. 
The tremendously rich part devoted to musicians underscores the importance of the exchanges between France and Germany. The letters from Wagner to Berlioz, from Liszt to Berlioz, from Debussy to Chausson make evident fruitful friendships and trace the genesis of great works and their challenging beginnings.
Richard Wagner
A magnificent autograph letter in French from Richard Wagner to Hector Berlioz (Lot 108 – estimate: €10,000 -15,000) clearly expresses the great admiration Wagner had for the French composer. Exiled in Switzerland after taking part in the 1849 May Uprising in Dresden, Wagner then worked alone on his Tetralogy. Feeling confident and hopeful, he wrote to Berlioz, whom he met during his long stay in Paris, addressing him as an elder and a master.
Robert Schumann
Among the scores is a complete manuscript that has remained unknown to this day. It is of the Lied Erstes Grün Op.35 No. 4 by Robert Schumann (Lot 99 – estimate: €25,000-€35,000). The inspiration for this lied, composed in December 1840, was his recent and long-awaited marriage to pianist and composer Clara Wieck. While the original manuscript of this composition is now preserved in the Berlin State Library, this one is the only other autograph source of this song and, compared to the known version, bears some minute differences.
Frédéric Chopin & Franz Liszt, love letters
On a more romantic note, Liszt’s correspondence with Marie d’Agoult, the letters of Chopin and George Sand, stand as testament to two legendary love stories. 
An autograph letter from Frederic Chopin to George Sand (Lot 70 – estimate: €20,000-€30,000) dated 5 December 1844, for example, describes at length the musician’s life in Paris while he is back in that city after a long stay in Nohant. A set of 23 autograph letters from Frantz Liszt to Marie d’Agoult (Lot 81 – estimate: €30,000-€40,000) captures the magnificent correspondence between one of Romanticism’s most legendary couples. In December 1832, Countess Charles d’Agoult, born Marie de Flavigny (1805-1876), met Franz Liszt at the home of the Marquise Le Vayer. It was love at first sight and they swiftly developed a mutual esteem that would come to an end in 1844. 
Lastly, in this section, the great names in painting are many: Cézanne, Monet, Signac and Gauguin share their thoughts with Pissarro, referencing the early days of Impressionism, while the era’s great gallery owners demonstrate their unwavering support for the artists of their day.  
Several letters from Paul Gauguin to his mentor Camille Pissarro show their almost filial relationship. Around 1882, in an autograph letter (Lot 116 – estimate: €12,000-€15,000) he divulged his financial problems and said that, despite the difficulties, he wanted “to be victorious by virtue of talent.” In an autograph letter of the following year (Lot 117 – estimate: €12,000-€15,000), he even goes so far as to share some reserves he has about two gouaches by Pissarro that he had just seen at the Galerie Durand-Ruel.
Some letters are illustrated with original drawings, like an autograph letter that Camille Pissarro wrote to his wife, Julie (Lot 128 – estimate: €3,000-€4,000), dated 1 March 1890, in which, a few days before the second Durand-Ruel peintres-graveur exhibition, he mentions Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne and Edgar Degas. The letter bears an amusing ink sketch showing him from the back, warmly bundled up and brandishing an umbrella.
Finally, there is an autograph letter signed by Félicien Rops to a friend, dated 1887 (Lot 135 – estimate: €4,000-€5,000) that features three erotic drawings reflecting some Rabelaisian prose.