Auction Offers 'Little Prince' Watercolor

PARIS.- During the annual Spring Selection exhibition in New York which gathers a selection of masterpieces soon to be presented at auction, Artcurial will reveal an original watercolor from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s, The Little Prince.

It is symbolic that the exhibition is held in American as this is where the book was written whilst Saint-Exupéry was in exile in 1942 and it was later published in New York in April 1943. The success was instant and the book went on to be an international legend. The artwork will be auctioned in Paris on 31st May 2016.

“We are thrilled to present this rare artwork in New York, a city which has a strong tie to the book, The Little Prince. The artwork will be exhibited a few blocks from the famous Morgan Library which has the original manuscript in its archives. This watercolor shows an iconic image of the young hero. He escapes into the night without a sound and walks alone in the dunes with his scarf blowing in the wind. He will soon disappear and the atmosphere is tense.” explains Guillaume Romaneix, in charge of the Book and Manuscript department at Artcurial.

With over 145 million copies published, The Little Prince is one of the most read books in the world after the Bible.

It is has been translated into 270 languages and is a 20th century literature gem. In 2014, the Little Prince, beat Proust, Céline and Camus to pole position and was the French book most mentioned in an international online survey about the 50 most influential books in the world.

The drawing on ‘Esleeck Fidelity Onion Skin’ paper is made using ochre watercolor ink with pencil marks. The paper-sized format (279 x 214 mm) is signed and has the original inner-frame. Antoine de Saint Exupéry is marked in black and white on page 87 of the original edition, Chapter XXVI. It is estimated at 50 000 – 60 000 € / 55 000 – 66 000 $.

The image corresponds to the following text:

This night I didn't see him get under way. He had slipped away silently. When I succeeded in joining him he was walking with at a rapid pace. He only said to me : -Ah, you're there. And he took me by the hand. But he was still tormented: -You shouldn't have come. You 'll have sorrow. I'll seem to have died and it won't be true. I kept silent -You understand. It's too far. I cannot take this body. It's too heavy. I kept silent . But it will be like an old abandoned shell. There is nothing sad about old shells

He was discouraged a little. But he still made an effort : -It will be nice, you know. I, too, shall look at stars. All the stars will be wells with a rusted pulley. All the stars will pour me a drink.

I kept silent . -It will be so kind ! You will have five hundred million bells. I will have five hundred million fountains.

And he was also keeping silent because he was crying…..

Origins of The Little Prince

At the beginning of the summer of 1942, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and his wife, Consuelo, moved into Bevin House, a manor on Northport, Long Island. The author had finished writing Pilote de Guerre and was working on Citadelle.

During a lunch meeting, Curtice Hitchcock, Saint-Exupéry’s published saw the author drawing a figure and asked him who it was. Saint-Exupéry replied that it wasn’t much “just a little man who is my heart”.

Hitchcock told him to listen to the little man and suggested that he wrote a children’s book. Saint-Exupery was surprised and said to Léon Wencelius a few days later, “Can you believe he wants me to write a children’s book now, come with me to the newsagent, I want to buy some colored crayons.”

In his attic workshop, in the library of the Victorian house, the writer / pilot surrounded himself with paintbrushes in water pots and pieces of paper with watercolor drawings. He worked endless hours, all through the night with a little help from coffee and cigarettes. He often telephoned his friends André Maurois and Denis de Rougemont to ask for their opinion.

By mid October 1942, the text was written but the author struggled to finish the drawings. Apparently the son of the philosopher Charles De Koninck served as a model and also Sylvia Hamilton’s poodle for the famous sheep ! Saint-Exupèry often fell asleep at his desk, exhausted.

One day, the author told Adèle Beaux about his admiration for Mary Poppins, which he declares to be, “the best children’s story book he has ever read”. When the Little Prince was published, P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins wrote, “Why mourn for the Brothers Grimm, she asks, when it is still possible for such a tale to be “heard from the lips of airmen and all who steer by the stars?”

The original book was published in New York on 6th April 1943 with Reynal & Hitchcock.

One week later, Antoine de SaintExupéry gave the original manuscript and sketches of The Little Prince to his friend, Silvia Hamilton. He left New York and headed to North Africa, never to return.

The original manuscript and sketches have since been acquired by the Pierpont Morgan library in New York where they are kept in the archives. The original watercolors returned to France in the luggage belonging to Saint Exupery’s wife, Conseulo.