A remarkable 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) and kept in his 12-bedroom chateau in the South of France, is to be sold at Bonhams
, Knightsbridge on 23 September 2010.
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 throughout 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. Highlights among over 70 lots offered in this sale include Le Clown au Chapeau Rouge (estimate £5,000 7,000); Still life of flowers and paintbrushes resting on a table (estimate £8,000 12,000); Pablo Picasso (estimate £3,000 5,000); as well as several self-portraits.
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 this sale go to the Severin Wunderman Family Foundation, a charity that supports research into incurable diseases.