A drawing of "The Blue Lotus" sets a new record for Hergé
Estimated at between 2.2 and 2.8 million euros, the draft cover for Hergé's Adventures of Tintin and Snowy album "The Blue Lotus" was sold at auction for 3.175 million euros by Artcurial in Paris on 14 January 2021. The result of the auction makes it the most expensive comic strip book ever auctioned and makes Hergé a sound investment in modern art.
The 40cm square work, created by Hergé in 1936 using Indian ink and gouache, demonstrates its author's pictorial richness. The deep black contrasts with the bright red of the dragon and the radiant blue of the vase. The route that culminated in this auction was both comical and dramatic. In 1936, the draft was rejected by Louis Casterman, the editor of the Tintin albums. He rejected it not due to its artistic quality, but due to its technical complexity, which would have made it too expensive to print. Hergé finally chose the simplified version with a red background that we know today.
The sale of this work by a descendant of Louis Casterman caused controversy as soon as it was announced. The story goes that Hergé gave it as a gift to Jean-Paul Casterman, the then seven-year-old son of Louis, who put it away in a drawer safe and sound. It did not reappear until 1981, when it was used as the basis for a lithograph produced for Hergé's reunion with his old friend Zhang. However, according to the designer's beneficiaries, this drawing had never been given away, but would never have been returned to its creator. Nevertheless, this version of the story has never been proved. Moreover, when the lithograph was published, the Moulinsart Foundation, which manages the exploitation rights to Tintin's image, did not try to claim it. Will the new record price provide an answer to the reasons for this controversy?