FIVE previously unknown photographic prints by Edgar Degas totalled €380,000 (£253,335) at Beaussant-Lefèvre (20.93/11.96% buyer’s premium) on July 2. All featured group portraits taken at the Paris home of Degas’s friend, the painter Henri Lerolle (1848-1929), and were consigned by Lerolle’s descendants.
Helped by his close friend, the artist Guillaume Tasset, who provided him with photographic equipment, Degas's passion for photography blossomed during the mid 1890s. These prints were all dated as 1895/96 and revealed Degas' interest in contrast, and his preference for interiors with atmospheric lighting, photographed at night.
Each large silver print was of similar size, approximately 16 x 11 1/2in (39 x 29cm), and all were developed by Guillaume Tasset or his daughter Delphine.
An Autoportrait avec les Deux Filles d'Henri Lerolle, with Lerolle's daughters (Christine and Yvonne) leaning on a small bronze casting of Rodin's Ugolino, shown right, sold to a foreign buyer on the phone for a huge €170,000 (£113,335) against an estimate of €25,000-30,000. This was the only one of the five photographs to have been seen in public - a different print was shown in the Edgar Degas Photographer exhibition held in New York, Los Angeles and Paris in 1998-99.
A Portrait des Filles d'Henri Lerolle Christine et Yvonne, featuring the two daughters alone, also sold to a foreign phone bidder, for €43,000 (£28,665).
Both these prints were vertical in format. The others were horizontal, led by a Portrait au Miroir d'Henri Lerolle et de ses Deux Filles, with the artful use of a mirror, that was pre-empted by the Musée d'Orsay for €88,000 (£58,665).
Paris dealer Jean-Claude Vrain secured a Portrait de Madeleine Lerolle et de ses Deux Filles (the two girls with their mother) for €73,000 (£48,665). The fifth print showing the parents, Portrait d'Henri Lerolle et de sa Femme, was in poor condition and sold over the phone for €6500 (£4335).