For the first time since it was finished nearly 50 years ago, Frank Frazetta's Captive Princess is heading to auction. Which means it is no longer the painting that time forgot.
Frazetta completed the work in 1973 for Ace Books' paperback edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1918 novel The People That Time Forgot, and ever since, this peak-period painting has been out of sight but never out of mind. After all, it's the stuff of classic Frazetta, a dynamite slice of prehistory featuring ape-like warriors carrying off a cave girl on the primeval island of Caprona after its discovery by an expedition.
Captive Princess makes its auction debut in Heritage Auctions
' Sept. 8-12 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction alongside centerpiece works by Alex Ross, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and other comic-art titans, not to mention several other Frazetta must-haves including sketches and studies.
"A strong case can certainly be made for Frazetta as the most important illustrator post-Norman Rockwell," says Heritage Auctions Vice President Todd Hignite. "After all his paintings have been reproduced more and are more immediately recognizable than virtually any other artist's. They have been used in more places book covers, posters, album jackets than any other illustrator's works, aside from Rockwell and his Saturday Evening Post covers. And this one is particularly special, in that Captive Princess has never before seen the light of day at auction."
Certainly, the timing could not be better: In recent years Frazetta's work has become highly coveted, as evidenced by world-record-setting and seven- and six-figure sales, all at Heritage Auctions.
Only two years ago Heritage Auctions sold his Egyptian Queen, from 1969, for $5.4 million. And just last year, his personal copy of A Princess of Mars originally made for another Burroughs book cover sold for $1.2 million. Another Burroughs cover, At the Earth's Core from 1974, was the first Frazetta work to sell for more than $1 million, during a Heritage auction in 2016. Since then his work has skyrocketed, befitting the best known, most revered and most-often imitated fantasy and science fiction artist of the 20th century.
Frazetta began as a comic-strip and comic-book illustrator in the 1940s and '50s, then transitioned to pulps and movie posters in the 1960s. In short order, his paintings for the covers of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and others changed the look of the paperback racks by filling them with swords, sorcerers and scantily clad warriors.
"He took fantasy artwork into the mainstream in his paintings, with the Edgar Rice Burroughs and Conan paintings," says Hignite. "More than any author, he, as an image-maker, completely changed all of that, taking it from a niche market to a mainstream audience. He even paved the way for huge mainstream movies like Star Wars, because he created a context for that kind of work."