Mirage plane soars to six-figure sum at Artcurial's Paris Aeronautics sale

Artcurial's aeronautics auction was an event we've been looking forward to since as long ago as July, when the drum roll for the sale first began.

Coinciding with the anniversary of the first flight of the celebrated Mirage III, many of the 500 lots related to the plane. But the scope of the auction was as wide as the whole of aviation history, from ballooning to the space race.

One of the most coveted lots was a poster advertising the Aéro-Club des Flandres and depicting French aviator Henri Farman ('l'Homme Volant' - the flying man). Farman was a vehicle enthusiast, and became a champion cyclist, a racecar driver for Renault and a pilot in succession.

Henri Farman poster
Henri Farman poster showing a motorised plane

The poster, on linen, advertises and event taking place on May 25 - June 2. Most significantly, it is the first known poster to depict a motorised flying machine. It squeaked past its €9,000-10,000 estimate to sell for €10,201.

At a similar price level was a gelatin silver print of the Wright brothers' first motorised plane in action - sometimes known as Kitty Hawk, after the place in North Carolina where they tested it. The 1903 shot of Orville Wright taking off with his brother in shot has been signed by the former.

The classic piece of aviation history rose above its €9,000-10,000 listing to achieve €11,476. Collectors and investors frustrated to have missed this will be relieved to know that a comparable piece of Wright brothers history is currently available.

Mirage V
Ready for take-off... the Mirage V
(Click to enlarge)

But it was the Mirage itself which, as expected, took top lot status. It was actually a Mirage V, a derivative of the Mirage III, and the plane had been used mostly for low altitude reconnaissance and put into service in January 1971. A real veteran, it has logged 2,769 hours of flight.

Intended for static display, this exciting piece of aviation history was expected to achieve €30,000-35,000, but bidders pulled back on the joystick and it rose higher and higher. Finally, one bidder took charge and landed it at €102,153 - a clear show of the fascination people hold for man's quest to conquer the skies.


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