Frank Frazetta’s 1972 painting ‘Escape on Venus’ became the top lot at Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction last week, when it was knocked down for $660,000 (£517,400).

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The 1972 painting was used as the cover image for a 1974 re-issue of a novel with the same name by US science-fiction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950).

Originally published in 1946, the novel is part of Burroughs’ Amtor or Venus series, which recounts the exploits of daring Carson Napier. The hero lands on Venus (following a navigational error en route to Mars) and there he wins the heart of a local princess, becomes a pirate, quashes a fascistic revolution and is made a prince. 

However, the US fantasy artist Frazetta (1928-2010) did not include Napier on his cover. Instead, he shows the moment when his royal love-interest faces off against a menacing, tiger-like ‘tharban’, a much more appealing scene for fans and collectors of the artist’s work.

Immediate stimulation  

“Frazetta was known for painting strong, sensuous women in fantastic environments,” says the auction house’s Ed Jaster. “Escape on Venus is a prime example of his ability to paint in a way that directs the focus of those viewing his paintings to a specific place. In this painting the trees and plants around the borders are done in subtle, muted tones, sending the focus back to the tiger and the woman.”

An earlier artist’s interpretation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Venus stories. This edition of ‘Fantastic Adventures’, featuring cover art by J Allen St John, was published in 1942.

Bidding that the auction house described as ‘frenetic’ led to an eventual hammer price of $660,000 (£517,400)at the Dallas auction house’s Comics & Comic Art Auction, which ran from August 2-4. 

“It is well known how his covers would immediately stimulate the sale of a publication. Many would buy his covers without any interest in the actual book,” the painting’s catalogue entry says. It also points out that this has three of the four ‘B’s that help stimulate interest in his pictures: Babes, Burroughs, Barbarians and Beasts.

It is the third-highest result the artist has achieved at the US auction house; the record remains $1.79m made in May this year.

Jaster added that the result was part of a continuing trend for Frazetta paintings “that have enjoyed enormous success in our auctions”.