Jean-Bernard Eschemann’s portrait of Marcel Proust
Jean-Bernard Eschemann’s portrait of Marcel Proust on his deathbed which sold for €36,000 (£31,580) as part of an archive of works from Proust’s library offered at Sotheby’s Paris. Photo crédit : Sotheby’s / Art Digital Studio.

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The 70-lot archive, including later additions by the writer’s niece Suzy Mante-Proust, had come direct from the family and made up a separate evening session of Sotheby’s latest Books and Manuscripts sale in the French capital.

The highest price lot in the archive was an early draft (catalogued as probably c.1907-8) of a passage from Du Côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way), the first part of his mammoth novel A la recherche du temps perdu, describing the hero’s walk along the Vivonne.

At the auction on May 24, it was knocked down at €106,000 (£92,980).

A great deal of interest was also generated by an unpublished portrait of Proust on his deathbed by Jean-Bernard Eschemann.

The 6¼ x 8½in (16 x 22cm) pencil study, signed and dated 19 Novembre 1922 – the day after Proust died of pneumonia – sold for a multiple of its €1000-1500 estimate at €36,000 (£31,580).

Letters to Reynaldo Hahn

The sale also featured a number of lots devoted to correspondence between the author and the composer Reynaldo Hahn, described by the auctioneers as Marcel Proust’s great love and lifelong friend.

The letters are notable for the light they throw on Hahn’s personality – in particular a rare almost entirely unpublished ensemble of seven letters from Hahn to Proust from their youth which realised €15,500 (£13,595).