European and American Autographs from David Schulson
By Michael Stillman
This month we review our first catalogue from David Schulson Autographs, though it is their number 132. Offered is a mix of manuscripts and other signed documents and letters, including partly printed forms, photographs, cards, and whatever else some famous person may have signed with his or her name. A great many of the signers come from the arts - painters, writers, poets, and musicians. Others are political figures, humanitarians, stage and screen performers, scientists, psychoanalysts, cartoonists, and even an assassin. Both Europe and America are well represented. Those who collect autographs, or any of the notable people represented within these pages, will surely find something of interest. The following are a few samples of what we found.
Even great artists have to deal with the practical aspects of life. Edgar Degas is regarded as one of the founders of the impressionist movement, but in 1901, he was still struggling with his bills. In this letter, Degas writes to gallery owner Hector Brame, to whom he evidently owed money. Translated from the French he says, "Saturday or Monday, I will bring you 300 or 400 francs. The same amount will be brought to you at the end of the month. I will therefore never, never be rich." One can only imagine what Degas would have thought if he knew what his paintings would sell for a century later. Item 19. $3,750.
Cardinal Richelieu was, naturally, a high figure in the Church, but he is noted more for the enormous political power he wielded. Richelieu was the effective Prime Minister for France from 1624 until his death in 1642, serving under King Louis XIII. He kept the nobility firmly in line, while using severe punishment to keep crime under control. Richelieu was also adept at dealing harshly with political enemies. While hardly beloved by the King, Louis did appreciate the Cardinal's effectiveness. Richelieu had the good sense always to display his loyalty to his boss. In this 1641 letter, translated from the French, he agrees to the recipient's proposal, "since it is in the service of the King, which is preferable to anything else." Richelieu was no fool. Item 82. $1,850.
Here is a couple of self-portraits from artists, but not of the kind usually known for their drawings. Item 14 is a self-profile drawn in pencil by the first great recording artist, Enrico Caruso. Caruso was the Elvis of his day, at least in terms of popularity if not musical style. He was an operatic tenor whose records sold in the millions, but his music is not played much today, both for changing musical styles and the poor recording quality of the day. Caruso died in 1921, just as record players were becoming widespread. $1,450. Item 41 is a self-profile by a man whose profile is one of the most recognizable ever. It is a drawing by film director Alfred Hitchcock, whose profile introduced his popular 1960s television series. $1,650.
Item 4 is a more detailed drawing. It is a watercolor signed by French illustrator George Barbier. Circa 1911, it shows a woman in a balloon dress with her sleek dog. See the cover illustration. Barbier has signed the painting. $2,850.