Prices for Picasso's drawings and paper cuttings went skyrocketing during the second day of the sale of the collection of Dora Maar in Paris on October 28th 1998.
The disappointment over the rather low prices recorded for paintings during the first session of the sale was much forgotten thanks to some incredible bids for works which carried tantalising estimates ranging from US $ 1,000 to 10,000.
This time, bidders battled throughout the sale for many little pieces, including less interesting drawings, notably a pencil portrait of Dora with a knot of hair which went to the Simon Dickinson gallery of London for 2,1 million francs (US $ 381,800) against a top pre-sale estimate of 300,000 francs.
This bid signalled the start of some intense duels especially for quite an erotic nude of December 1938, titled “Adora” which sold for 1,1 million francs ($ 200,000) against a top pre-sale estimate of 100,000 francs.
Torn, burnt and cut papers were sold beyond all expectations. These were created by Picasso exclusively for Dora. However, most of these pieces were pre-empted by the State as museum officials hinted just before the sale.
Two torn papers with cigarette burns showing two animals were pre-empted at 60,000 francs (US$ 10,900) against an estimate of 3,000 francs, another one representing a goat went for 100,000 francs (US $ 18,180), a “Condor on a branch” reached 110,000 francs (US $ 20,000) and a small white lap-dog culminated at 150,000 francs (US $ 27,270).
The State was sometimes beaten, notably concerning the head of a faun which sold for 360,000 francs (US$ 65,450).
Eight small drawings showing heads of fauns sold for 560,000 francs (US $ 101,800) against a top pre-sale estimate of 40,000 francs five studies on matchboxes went for 1,1 million francs (US $ 200,000) against an estimate of 40,000 francs, nine pencil drawings on matchboxes went to French dealer Marc Blondeau for 700,000 francs (US $ 127,272) also against a 40,000 francs estimate while a gathering of seven ink and pencil studies on matchboxes reached 800,000 francs (US $ 145.450) (pre-sale estimate: 30,000-40,000 francs).
Small pebbles engraved by Picasso also made some sensational prices, one showing a face from the Cyclades scored well at 890,000 francs (US $ 161,820) against a 15,000 francs estimate. A bone pendant-amulet showing the profile of Dora Maar went to Richard Rodriguez, the French collector who discovered Basquiat, for 170,000 francs (US $ 30,900) against an estimate of 30,000 francs.
Jewels once created by Picasso to calm down the tempestuous Dora were also much coveted by amateurs. One chiselled ring with a portrait of Dora with dishevelled hair went for 650,000 francs (US $ 118,180) and a rectangular watch inserted in a chromium-plated metal ring engraved with a cubist portrait of Dora fetched 380,000 francs (US $ 69,000) against a top pre-sale estimate of 40,000 francs.
Meanwhile, a small sculpture in wood and plaster showing a bird standing on a wire sold for the incredible price of 2,1 million francs (US $ 381,800) against a top pre-sale estimate of 70,000 francs…
Madness was present throughout that second session to the satisfaction of the auctioneers who feared that the disappointing prices recorded for paintings would have some effect over the rest of the sale. Happily, they had nothing to fear and it is likely that other souvenirs such as photographs and books will be hotly disputed.