Gil Elvgren dominates with "Fire Belle" in $3.725+ million event at Heritage Auctions Howard Chandler Christy’s Nymphs in Summer sells for $179,250, sets record for artist; Alberto Vargas, Jessie Willcox-Smith, Edward Runci all perform well in Oct. 22 New York auction
News-Antique.com - Oct 24,2011 - NEW YORK – Gil Elvgren remains the unchallenged champion of American Pin-Up Art, as evidenced by the $191,200 price realized for his 1956 Fire Belle (Always Ready), one of the master’s greatest works, in Heritage Auctions’ Oct. 22 Illustration Art Signature® Auction, and by the fact that fully six of the Top 10 lots in the auction featured his revered name. All prices include 19.5% Buyer’s Premium.
Bidding across the board was spirited in the auction, as 1,192 bidders vied for 903 lots, with the $3,725+ million total in prices realized translating into a sell-through rate of 99% by value.
“This was certainly one of our strongest Illustration sales ever, both in terms of the total and sell-through rate,” said Ed Jaster, Senior Vice President at Heritage. “The market is absolutely great for top quality work – each time a great example by virtually any pin-up artist came up, the bidding was fierce.”
The auction catalog cover lot, Howard Chandler Christy’s Nymphs in Summer, 1946, a lush, monumental nude, was the subject of much collector buzz heading into the auction, and more than lived up to expectations as it soared to a $179,250 price realized, a record price for the famed Golden Age Illustration artist that obliterated the previous price record by nearly $65,000.
“This masterpiece by Christy is the most impressive canvas by the artist that we’ve ever offered, and it performed as such,” said Todd Hignite, Consignment Director for Illustration Art at Heritage. “Nudes were an important subject throughout Christy’s career, and represent some of his most sought after images with collectors.”
The ever-popular Alberto Vargas’s Legacy Nude, First Playboy Pin-Up, March 1957 – the top entry from the Estate of Charles Martignette – a painting that was reproduced on page 56 of the March 1957 issue of Playboy magazine in an article titled "The Vargas Girl" and that marks the first appearance of any Vargas work in Playboy, more than tripled its’ pre-auction estimate of $30,000+ to finish the day at $95,600.
As mentioned above, six of the auction’s Top 10 lots came via the hand of Elvgren, with his Cover Up, 1955, checking in as the second most-popular Elvgren of the day at a final price of $119,500. Not too far behind was Elvgren’s 1950 work Up in Central Park, 1950, which realized a competitive $107,550, while his Dampened Doll, 1967, from the Estate of Charles Martignette, brought $89,625. The top Elvgren offerings are rounded out by Miss Sylvania's Mishap, circa 1955, and What a Line!, 1949, both of which realized $53,775.
Besides the record price set for the Christy painting, record prices were also realized for pin-ups by a number of artists, including: Edward Runci’s A Surprising Figure, 1949, that saw a final price realized of $41,825; Earl Macpherson’s Blonde Pin-Up on the Phone brought $23,900; Olivia de Berardinis’ Two of a Kind, Heather Kozar, Playboy Pin-Up, September 2004 realized $21,510 and Arthur Saron Sarnoff’s Brunette in Black Negligee in Pink Bed, from The Estate