De Brunhoff’s Babar cover beats estimate by 33%

Jean de Brunhoff’s original cover art to Le Rois Babar has sold for $40,000.

The piece starred in Swann Auction Galleries’ Illustration Art sale in New York on March 21, beating an estimate of $30,000 by 33.3%.

Babar Roi Brunhoff

De Brunhoff created Babar in 1931

Le Rois Babar (Babar the King) is the third book in de Brunhoff’s hugely successful series, which tells the story of an elephant crowned king of his tribe.

The auction house said: “This is one of only seven cover illustrations in existence; the others are known to be held in private and institutional collections.”

The result reflects a growing market for Franco-Belgian comics and children’s books spearheaded by Tintin.

Prices for the Belgian adventurer have shot up in recent years, with an original page from Explorers on the Moon selling for $2.4m last year – a record for any piece of comic book art at auction.

Similarly, a page from Gosciny and Uderzo’s Asterix the Soothsayer realised $341,500 – up more than 71% on estimate.

While Babar is not strictly a comic book, de Brunhoff’s charming illustrations have a worldwide following.   

Edward Gorey’s Skeletons and Hiding Figures was another top seller, achieving $18,750 (up 56.2% on a valuation of $12,000).

That puts it in the top bracket of the Cape Cod author and illustrator’s work at auction.

Gorey’s camply gothic fantasies have had a huge impact on wider culture, with Edward Scissorhands director Tim Burton and Sandman author Neil Gaiman among his devotees.

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