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Important painting by children's book author/illustrator Maurice Sendak to be auctioned July 17
Maurice Sendak (American, 1928-2012), original watercolor art created for 1982 TV adaptation of Prokofiev’s opera ‘The Love For Three Oranges,’ 26in x 31in (framed). Provenance: Ted Hake collection. Image courtesy of Hake’s.

YORK, PA.- To view original artworks by Maurice Sendak (American, 1928-2012) – author and illustrator of the beloved children's book Where The Wild Things Are – the most logical place to go is the Rosenbach Museum & Library, a major repository of Sendak’s work.

In 1966, after suffering a heart attack at the age of 37, Sendak felt compelled to secure his body of work for future generations, so he made arrangements for all of his future original book art to be conveyed to the Philadelphia museum.

Aside from the selections displayed at the Rosenbach, very little of Sendak’s original art is privately or institutionally held. An important exception is the large and important original watercolor that will be auctioned by Hake’s Americana & Collectibles on July 17.

Sendak created the visually stunning watercolor for the 1985 TV adaptation of the Sergei Prokofiev opera The Love For Three Oranges, on which Sendak and stage director Frank Corsaro had collaborated three years earlier for England’s Glyndebourne opera festival.

The opera tells the tale of a king whose son suffers from depression. The only cure is laughter. Court jesters and clowns prove useless in amusing the royal heir, but when a witch falls down revealing her undergarments, the prince becomes hysterical, causing the witch to curse him with an obsession to find three oranges. The prince would never rest, the witch said, until the oranges were found. A magician reveals the location of the oranges and summons a demon, who, in turn, conjures winds that blow the prince and his friend off to a mountaintop palace guarded by a monstrous cook. In true storybook fashion, the oranges are successfully stolen from the cook and the prince’s curse is eventually cured by true love.

It is believed that Sendak created the TV production’s remarkable 26 by 32-inch (framed) watercolor with Mad King Ludwig II’s castle Neuschwanstein in mind. The art depicts the castle lair of the monster cook guarding the entrance to an imposing edifice atop a rocky prominence, with sheer rock walls and cliffs leading to lush forested valleys in the foreground and taller mountain peaks in the background. The colors are classic Sendak choices.

Hake’s queries to both institutions and one auction record revealed the existence of only three finished watercolors of slightly larger size; only one of them in private hands. The latter piece was first sold at a charity auction and then resold at auction in March 2009 for $74,000.

The Sendak original watercolor created for The Love For Three Oranges TV production has been in the personal collection of the artist’s good friend, Hake’s founder Ted Hake, since 1985. Hake acquired the painting directly from Sendak.

The auction catalog featuring the Sendak artwork is now open for bidding by phone, mail or online at

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