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The Pen is Mightier.

Write now: images of inspiration for the wordsmith on a mission.

432. La Plume. 1896.
Alphonse Mucha
11 x 28 1/8 in./28 x 72.7 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000.

Mucha’s vision of the literary Muse: earrings of the Sun, a halo formed of Byzantine mosaics and Roman arches, laurel branches extending from the quill, and a belly pregnant with creative possibility.

406. Stylo Bayard.
45 1/2 x 61 in./115.6 x 156.8 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200.

The typical writer is a hunchbacked creature often nervous, scribbling and starving. In the mind’s eye, however, there’s this: a heroic vision of the wordsmith as jousting knight-at-arms.

60. Don Quixote. 1947.
26 3/8 x 35 3/8 in./67 x 89.8 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500.

This 1947 film was the first version of Cervantes’ classic to be filmed in sound, for a Spanish-speaking audience. The Don looks dashing in Art Deco garb; note that Don Quixote’s horse is leaping up and out of the first pages of the book. This poster was printed for the Mexican debut of the film.

173. Teatro Regio / La Cicala & La Formica. 1898.
39 3/8 x 54 7/8 in./100.2 x 139.4 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

The classic Aesop’s Fable of the Ant and the Grasshopper was transformed into a naturalistic three-act comedy performed at Turin’s Regio Theatre at the turn of the 20th century. This adaptation was set in The Netherlands, where the lush tulip springtime gives way to bleak and barren winters. This excellent design emphasizes the pathos – and judgment – in the moment of destitution and humility.

175. La Bête Humaine. 1890.
38 x 56 78 in./96.7 x 144.5 cm
Est: $1,400-$1,700.

We are here at the debut of Emile Zola’s classic 1890 novel, known in English as The Beast Within or The Beast in Man. As Jules Lemaitre described the book, writing in Le Figaro, “In his latest novel M. Zola examines the most frightening and mysterious of all primordial instincts: the instinct for destruction and slaughter, and the obscure connection between this instinct and the erotic instinct.”

Lisa Hill, writing (much later) for Reading Zola, notes that this is the author’s novel concerning France’s legal system, “exposing the corruption of the judicial system which relied so much on patronage. Zola shows with unnerving clarity how civilized behavior can so easily be vanquished by inexplicable surges of rage and hatred. In Jacques, we see the triggers which threaten to overwhelm him when he’s with women… We see how easily crime can be forgotten when its proceeds lead to the desired outcome, how a moral gangrene sets in and leads to further wickedness.”

332. Larousse.
Jean-Michel Folon
46 1/2 x 64 5/8 in./118 x 164.2 cm
Est: $1,000-$1,200.

The Larousse French-English dictionary has been a savior for anyone who’s tangled with the confusions and subtleties that confound these two languages. Folon’s poster, of up-in-the-air travelers coming to land, in the red light of a morning arrival, upon an outstretched hand flocked with flying books, is a perfect interpretation of the feeling one gets, when converting a good word into a bon mot.

314. Orangeade André. 1930.
A. Cometti
31 1/8 x 47 in./79 x 119.2 cm
Est: $1,200-$1,500.

There’s nothing better than sitting in the shade, drinking an André Orangeade. The only reference we can find for this product is from F. Scott Fizgerald’s “Tender is the Night” (1932), p. 122: “Silence while he stared at a shelf that held the humbler poisons of France – bottles of Otard, Rhum St. James, Marie Brizard, Punch Orangeade, André Fernet-Branca, Cherry Rocher, and Armagnac.” Fitzgerald appears to have conflated Orangeade André and Fernet-Branca in his notes for the novel.

446. "Seven" (Sedmero). 1934.
Alphonse Mucha
5 1/4 x 6 3/8 in./13.3 x 16 cm
Est: $600-$800.

For Emanuela Lesehrada’s Seven (Sedmero) – a collection of 7 poems in Czech – Alphonse Mucha created an uncharacteristically brooding composition in a hand-signed photogravure. The small volume, produced in an extremely limited edition of 77 copies (this is #77), is also signed by Lesehrada. A title-page excerpt from “Magic Art,” one of the poems, is translated as: “A Secret Brotherhood forms / artists of all times and ages, / in them the sacred fire burning, / the dream of a man, / which was created to higher living / and to whom the Temple of Truth and Beauty / with his hand in the darkness lit!”

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