LONDON.- A collection of drawings, pastels and ceramics by the French poet, filmmaker, playwright and novelist, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), brought together by the late business tycoon and founder of Gucci timepieces, Severin Wunderman (1939-2008), made a remarkable £430,000 today (23 September) at Bonhams, Knightsbridge, with 90% sold by value.
Just an hour earlier, a selection of prints, ceramics and silver by the artistic master of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso, fetched a total of £220,812, with 85% sold by value.
Cocteau met Picasso in 1915 and the pair remained close friends for nearly 50 years. Their artistic relationship can be characterised by two comments: according to Arnaud, Picasso was forever at the heart of Cocteaus creative pantheon, while Picasso was once heard to comment that Cocteau is the tail of my comet.
Highlights of the Picasso sale were two silver plates that he designed in the mid 1950s. Joueur de flute et Cavalier fetched £21,600 (estimate £10,000 - 15,000) and Dormeur sold for £19,200 (estimate £10,000 - 15,000). The highest selling ceramic was a platter entitled Tête de chèvre de profil (£12,000) and the top selling print was Le Cavalier (£6,240).
The best-seller in the Cocteau sale was Jeune Fille de Milly, 1951, which was painted at the house Cocteau bought with Jean Marais in Milly-la-Foret in 1947. It sold for £48,000 against a pre-sale estimate of £8,000 12,000.
Top prices were also paid for Les Gémeaux, which made £15,600 (estimate £7,000 10,000); Le Clown au Chapeau Rouge, which sold for £14,400 (estimate £5,000 - 7,000); and Portrait of Pablo Picasso, which made £10,800.
Although famous for his films (Beauty and the Beast, 1946, Orpheus, 1949), novels (Les Enfants Terribles, 1929) and plays (Le Bel Indifferent, 1940), Cocteau also produced thousands of artworks in his lifetime, in part because he found art therapeutic. Working in a variety of mediums, from ceramics to oils and pastels, he commented: Art is not a pastime but a priesthood.
Using a range of celebrity friends as subjects, from artists and writers, such as Picasso, Jean Hugo and Guillaume Apollinaire, to stars of the theatrical world including Diaghilev, Josephine Baker and Edith Piaf, his ironic caricatures give a snapshot of the best of early 20th century artistic output that revolved around Cocteau and his circle. They also provided amusement to many, including Coco Chanel who suggested he turn his hand to fashion design.
Wunderman was his biggest fan and is considered to have been the worlds largest collector of works by Jean Cocteau. He kept the majority in his Cote DAzur chateau which included a suite in which the entire sitting area and bedroom were covered from floor to ceiling in the artists drawings.
In 2004 Wunderman was honoured with the title of Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor by the President of the French Republic, Jacques Chirac, for his cultural and philanthropic work.
Proceeds from the Jean Cocteau sale go to the Severin Wunderman Family Foundation, a charity that supports research into incurable diseases.