Malcolm Forbes art collection of Franco-Prussian War paintings auctions in NY

Along with Paul Fraser, magazine mogul Malcolm Forbes did much to popularise the idea of autographs as investments in the last 35 years. The businessman, who died in 1990 with an estimated worth of $400m, had been a fan of autographs since the age of 15.

"None of my other investments give me the joy that autographs do," Forbes was once quoted as saying. "Because they make me feel that I am holding a piece of history in my hands."

That values of the rarest autographs have risen by 358.5% in the last 11 years - equivalent to 14.84% per annum - shows that Mr Forbes had a point.

But Forbes wasn't only a fan of autographs. Like many of his big business contemporaries, he also collected rare art. On January 27, a New York sale of Old Master & 19th Century European Art will offer 13 works from The Forbes Collection.

Champigny by edouard Detaille410.jpg
Franco-Prussian War art: Champigny; Décembre 1870 by Édouard Detaille

Among the rare artworks collected by Forbes is a piece depicting the Battle of Champigny, one of the final engagements of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Titled Champigny; Décembre 1870, the work by Édouard Detaille will appear for sale with a $70,000-100,000 presale estimate.

The aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War had a profound impact on the French national psyche. Following the end of Germany's occupation of France in 1873, many artists drew inspiration from the war, often focusing on heroic battles in which the French armies faced overwhelming odds.

Malcolm Forbes was clearly also inspired by the Franco-Prussian War and its subsequent artworks, devoting his considerable collecting resources and expertise to acquiring rare art pieces like Detaille's Champigny; Décembre 1870.

Forbes magazine remains a Bible for the wealthy. We have this edition, starring and signed by Warren Buffett on its “400 Richest People in America” cover, for sale priced at just £750


Also for sale at Sotheby's are four "preparatory works" - two by Detaille and two by Alphonse de Neuville - made for the popular Panorama de Champigny event which opened Paris's prestigious Panorama National in November, 1882.

The January 27 Old Master & 19th Century European Art auction will be held by Sotheby's. Prior to the sale, the works will exhibit at Sotheby's York Avenue galleries beginning 21 January. Watch this space for more news on the sale.

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