PARIS – An original painting for the cover of a 1936 Tintin album by Belgian artist Georges Remi, better known as Herge, is set for auction in Paris on Thursday and could fetch a record-breaking price.
The current highest price for a Tintin artwork was set at €2.6 million back in 2014.
The Blue Lotus (Le Lotus Bleu), done in Indian ink, gouache and watercolor, depicts the cartoon Belgian reporter inside a porcelain jar against a black backdrop with a Chinese-style red dragon.
Measuring 34x34cm, the artwork was originally rejected by publisher Casterman due to the high costs required to reproduce it. Herge gifted it to Jean-Paul Casterma, son of the editor, who held onto it until his death in 2009.
Eric Leroy, head of the comic book department at the Artcurial auction house, has given the piece an estimated selling price of between €2 and €3 million.
“The Blue Lotus is a mythical album because it is the first time Herge knew the beginning and the end of a story before he began to draw,” he tells EFE.
“In 1935, he met a Chinese student at the Royal Academy Fine Arts (Brussels), Zhang Chongren, who told him about his country. For the first time, he realized that he cannot just tell his readers anything, but that he has to pay attention to the story. I would go as far to say that it’s the first mature European comic,” he adds.
It is also the last cover that Herge completed in color before moving on to black and white.
The published version of the Blue Lotus depicted a black dragon on a red background. The plot follows Tintin in Shanghai as he tries to solve puzzles and take down a network of opium traffickers.
The watercolor, considered a true work of art, is the star piece of a larger auction on the world of Tintin, which includes up to 200 lots with drawings in color and black and white.
Leroy says the Blue Lotus is “the most important that has reached the private market” and that Casterman would have never imagined the stratospheric price it is set to fetch.
Casterman’s heirs are behind the decision to auction the artwork.
“When I asked him to sell it in the 1990s, he told me it was very important to him as it was a gift from Herge. It was the apple of his eye, and he kept it safe until his death,” Leroy adds.