Auctions | October 2, 2014

Marc Chagall’s Most Important Illustrated Book at Bonhams NY


New York—Bonhams is pleased to present the Gemini Collection of Modern Prints & Illustrated Books, at auction on October 28 in New York. The sale comprises 166 lots and is anticipated to fetch $1-1.5 million.

Gemini Fine Books & Arts was founded by the late Alexander “Arik” Verezhensky. Mr Verezhensky was a Russian emigré and cybernetics PhD. In the U.S. he became a passionate collector and dealer of fine prints and illustrated books by the major artists of the 20th century. He joined both the ABAA and ILAB, the two foremost trade organizations for fine books. Christina Geiger, Director of the Books Department at Bonhams New York, states, “Mr. Verezhensky was widely respected by his colleagues and by auctioneers. He had exceptional discipline in acquiring books and prints in only the best possible condition.”


The star lot is one of Marc Chagall’s most important illustrated books, Four Tales from the Arabian Nights, estimated at $300,000 - 500,000, published by Pantheon Books in New York in 1948. After the death of his wife, Bella, in 1944, Chagall began to focus his work on the themes of lost love, death, and reunion. When asked by his colleague, Jacques Schiffrin, to collaborate with him on an illustrated book to be printed in the United States, Chagall found himself deeply drawn to the imagery from the Arabian Nights. The complete set of 12 color lithographs on woven paper has been called the finest example of color lithography produced in the United States prior to 1950. The Gemini copy is in superb condition with fresh colors and pristine sheets. It is also unique, including a set of 23 color progressive proofs.

Also featured is a signed, limited edition illustrated book, ? toute épreuve by Joan Miró (est. $35,000 - 55,000) with poems by Paul Eluard and published in 1958. It is an exceptional feat of book illustration, which took Miró 10 years to create. Miró himself wrote of the project, "I have made some trials which have allowed me to see what it was to make a book and not merely to illustrate it. Illustration is always a secondary matter. The important thing is that a book must have all the dignity of a sculpture carved in marble."

Pablo Picasso’s first major illustrated book, Ovid’s Métamorphoses, estimated at $35,000 - 55,000 and published in 1931 in Lausanne, Switzerland by Albert Skira is another highlight of this sale. The book is illustrated with 30 original etchings by Picasso plus an additional suite printed on chine paper, one of only 10 such suites. This work was Picasso’s first serious attempt to provide an alternate vision of a text and is a superb example of his virile and classical graphic line in this period.

The catalog is now available online at

Images: Leaves from Four Tales from the Arabian Nights by Marc Chagall, New York: Pantheon Books, 1948. Est. $300,000 - $500,000.