Thursday - 30 October 2014

Nadar – before the photos

11 January 2005Written by ATG Reporter

Nadar (1820-1910), real name Félix Tournachon, is best known as one of the leading specialists in early photographic portraits.

But his talent as a draughtsman, as well as his psychological perspicacity, was the subject of a fascinating and highly successful sale at Tajan (20.93/14.35% buyer's premium) on December 3. The sale consisted of 273 caricatures of Second Empire artists, politicians and writers, mainly in charcoal on brown paper with white highlights.

Measuring approximately 9 x 6in (23 x 15cm), they dated from the early 1850s, before Nadar took up photography, and brought a hammer total of €504,000 (£360,000).

A handful of Nadar's caricatures can be found in the Musée Carnavalet and Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, but the collection here appears to have been lost from view since 1865, when they were acquired by the vendor's ancestors from the banker Millaud, who bought them from Nadar for 1500 gold francs. Millaud's own caricature sold for €1300 (£930).

Individual estimates of €3000 were left trailing on several occasions, due mainly to fierce competition between America's Michael Sachs and Paris dealer Jean-Claude Vrain, who paid the top price - a huge €148,000 (£105,700) - for a long-legged Nadar self-portrait. Other famous figures among what Nadar called his personal "Pantheon" included Balzac at €25,000 (£17,860), Alexandre Dumas at €22,000 (£15,715), and Offenbach at €13,000 (£9290).

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