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31 poetic and dramatic images

Go for a cruise in style with the earliest models from 1896 through Jazz Age designs.

105. Voiturettes Automobiles Léon Bollée. 1896.
Artist: André Robert
55 1/4 x 38 5/8 in./140.5 x 98.2 cm
Est: $3,500-$4,000

Bollée was one of the mechanics and machine shop owners who, in the days before mass production was introduced into the auto industry, offered to build custom bodies for the early enthusiasts. In this three-wheeler, the fastidiously dressed passenger is perched semi-comfortably in front of her chauffeur. And though the dangling blanket and lack of a safety belt might make the modern motorist a bit uneasy, it’s an excellent portrayal of the devil-may-care naiveté of the early automotive age.

108. Cleveland Car. ca. 1900.
Artist: Misti (Ferdinand Mifliez, 1865-1923)
20 3/8 x 58 1/2 in./51.8 x 148.5 cm
Est: $2,000-$2,500

Elmer E. Sperry of Cleveland was instrumental in establishing the electric street railway in that city. His early inventions in the 1890s included the electric arc lamp and electricity-operated mining equipment, with which he made a fortune. He built his first electric carriage in 1898 and in 1899 he contracted with the Cleveland Machine Screw Company to manufacture his automobile for him. The resulting Cleveland Car had lamps operated by push button and a single lever for controlling the movement of the automobile. The lever was moved sideways to indicate direction, pushed downward for speed, and pulled upward to remove the current and apply the brakes. The car was ultimately known as the “Sperry” in the United States and was exported under the name “Cleveland Car.” Misti, in this two-sheet poster, shows an evening ride in the electric car beneath a midnight blue sky filled with shooting stars.

111. Automobile Club de France / 5me Salon. 1902.
Artist: Privat Livemont (1861-1936)
39 3/8 x 51 in./100 x 129.5 cm
Est: $6,000-$7,000

Personifying the 5th Paris Auto Show is a regal-looking Art Nouveau goddess, proudly sitting at the helm of the latest open-air automobile. According to the side panel, bicycles, boats, and hot air balloons were also on view.

115. Automobiles Georges Richard. 1905.
Artist: Henri Bellery-Desfontaines (1867-1909)
57 1/8 x 33 3/8 in./145 x 85 cm
Est: $12,000-$14,000

A racing spirit forms a figurehead for the speeding automobile as it kicks dust into the starry midnight sky. Simultaneously poetic and dramatic, it’s one of the most spectacular automotive posters ever created. Several versions of the image are known; this particular version of the design comes complete with the announcement that the firm’s car had won the prestigious Gordon Bennett race in 1904 and “1905” replaces the typically seen checkerboard flag in the upper left. Bellery-Desfontaines had a short but successful career as a painter, decorator, and designer of furniture, books, and typefaces. Two of his color lithographs were included in the prestigious L’Estampe Moderne (1897 and 1898).

120. Delahaye. ca. 1925.
Artist: Fell
45 x 60 1/8 in./114.5 x 152.7 cm
Est: $2,500-$3,000

This arresting Art Deco design presents the gleaming Delahaye vehicle emerging out of the dark into a Technicolor future; the silhouette rising from behind symbolizes the thoroughbred qualities of this fine automobile. There are several artists named Fell listed in various reference books who could have created this distinguished work, but the absence of initials or a first name prevents us from making a positive identification.

121. Donnet. 1926.
Artist: Geo Ham (Georges Hamel, 1900-1972)
46 1/8 x 62 in./117.2 x 157.5 cm
Est: $4,000-$5,000

Full speed ahead! Geo Ham’s vivacious design for Donnet is a graphic Art Deco wonder. From the Bauhaus-style factory below, the newest make of Donnet springs forth, multiplying and zooming through the air. Founded in 1914, the Parisian auto manufacturer got its start with patrol flying boats for the French Navy before transitioning into passenger vehicles. The model seen here is likely the Zedel G2 Torpedo. Rare!

122. Citroën C4. ca. 1928.
Artist: Roger de Valerio (1896-1951)
47 1/8 x 62 3/8 in./120 x 158.4 cm
Est: $3,000-$3,500

Not to be confused with the car of the same name produced today, the Citroën C4 was only on the market from 1928 to 1930. Influenced by American automobile design at the time, both the C4 and the C6 were meant to replace the Type A and B models from prior years. Its most distinguishing feature was the third door on the rear.

123. Circuit de Dieppe. ca. 1930.
Artist: Anonymous
31 x 46 1/2 in./78.5 x 118.2 cm
Est: $7,000-$9,000

This riveting international event took place for 7 consecutive years in the commune of Saint-Aubin-sur-Scie. From 1929 to 1935, cars and motorcycles competed on the 76.5 kilometer track for the grand prize. Competitors included F1 drivers from around the world, though six of seven winners were French; most drove Bugattis. This undated design provides a graphic vista of the veritable speed obtained by the drivers; events included a speed contest as well as an elegance contest. Rare!

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