A first edition of Adam Smith’s “An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” could sell for as much as $120,000 at auction next month.
Published in 1776, the volume is among almost 300 lots of rare books and manuscripts expected to tally as much as $8 million at the Profiles in History sale on Dec. 18. The pieces are part of a single, anonymous collection.
The group includes letters signed by U.S. presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, artists Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, monarchs Napoleon and Peter the Great, composers Richard Wagner and Ludwig van Beethoven, baseball legends Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. The catalog offers translations.
In his two-page letter to the Reverend Jonathan Boucher on Aug. 15, 1798 from Mount Vernon, Washington writes, “Peace, with all the world is my sincere wish. I am sure it is our true policy.” The lot is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.
Less than seven months before his death, van Gogh wrote a letter to “M. & Mme. Ginoux,” his friends and owners of the Cafe de la Gare in Arles; Madame Ginoux was the subject of several portraits. Written in French on grid paper, it is signed “Vincent” and dated Jan. 20, 1890.
“As for me, illness has done me good -- it would be ungrateful not to acknowledge that,” van Gogh writes. The item is estimated at $200,000 to $300,000.
More affordable are four letters written and signed by Wagner. Each carries a $6,000 to $8,000 estimate.
“I am ashamed!” Wagner writes to Princess Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, the mistress of composer Franz Liszt, on Jan. 22, 1854. “I certainly did torment Franz cruelly; may he forgive me for it!”
Napoleon’s March 30, 1807 note to General Jean Rapp, one of his official aides-de-camp, is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000.
Marilyn Monroe’s undated letter to her friend and neighbor Norman Rosten, written on Waldorf-Astoria stationery, has many corrections and strikethroughs.
“I use to write poetry sometimes but usually I was very depressed at those times and the few (about two) people said that it depressed them, in fact one cried but it was an old friend I’d known for years,” Monroe writes in the letter, estimated at $30,000 to $50,000.
The collection will be previewed from Dec. 3 to 9 at Douglas Elliman’s Madison Avenue Gallery, 980 Madison Ave. The auction will take place on Dec. 18 via Internet and phone.
Norman Rockwell’s painting “Willie Gillis: Package From Home” is expected to bring $3 million to $5 million at Susanin’s Auctions in Chicago on Dec. 1.
Originally published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on Oct. 4, 1941, the image was the first of 11 featuring the Willie Gillis character.
The 1941 oil-on-canvas shows him as a low-ranking soldier carrying a care package, with a group of taller and higher-ranking servicemen behind him.
“The package probably contains cookies or sweet treats,” said Sean Susanin, president of the auction house. The other men “are following him to see if he will share the treats with them.”
The work has been consigned by an international corporation with headquarters in Chicago, Susanin said, declining to specify. It was gifted to the company in 1968 and has never been exhibited.
“It hung in the CEO’s office,” said Susanin. “No one knew where it was.”
In 1970, the owner was listed as Chicago-based CNA Insurance, according to the Norman Rockwell Museum.
The painting has the highest estimate of the Rockwell lots offered this week. American art sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s will have 11 works by the artist. “When the Doctor Treats Your Child” (1939) is estimated at $800,000 to $1.2 million, leading a group of six works at Sotheby’s on Nov. 29. “Deer Santy Claus,” which was discovered in a closet in California after having been missing for decades, could bring $300,000 to $500,000 on Nov. 28 at Christie’s.
Rockwell’s auction record was set when his “Breaking Home Ties” (1954) fetched $15.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2006. In 2002, another wartime painting, “Rosie the Riveter,” sold for $4.9 million at Sotheby’s. It is currently in the collection of Alice Walton’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arizona.
“There aren’t many Rockwell trophies left out there,” Susanin said. “The Norman Rockwell Museum holds most of them.”
With artworks by Henri Matisse bringing as much as $48.8 million at auction, Christie’s online-only sale of the French master’s multiples seems downright affordable.
The 96 lots have been consigned by the artist’s family, with bids starting at $1,000. A 1929 etching of a naked woman curled on the floor is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000. Another nude is sitting by a fish bowl wearing nothing but slippers. The estimate is $5,000 to $7,000.
Both are executed with deftness, immediacy and intimacy. The top estimates don’t exceed $50,000. The auction, expected to tally $800,000, ends on Dec. 4 at https://onlineonly.christies.com.
Muse highlights include Alec McCabe on books and James Russell on architecture.