This Rare Color Tintin Drawing Just Sold for €3.2 Million, Setting a New World Record for an Original Comic Strip

The artwork was originally supposed to serve as the cover for the Tintin comic "The Blue Lotus."

Hergé, The Blue Lotus (1936). Photo courtesy of Artcurial.

A picture by the Belgian cartoonist Hergé (1907–1983) has set a new record for the most expensive work of comic book art, selling for €3.2 million ($3.8 million) on January 14 at an auction at Artcurial in Paris.

The 1936 gouache painting was originally intended as the cover image for The Blue Lotus, the fifth volume about boy reporter Tintin, recounting his travels in China during the Japanese invasion of 1931—an usual setting for the time.

The artwork was ultimately too costly for publisher Casterman to reproduce with the four-color printing technique.

The work is actually one of only five direct-color drawings by Hergé, who struggled to execute his vision of color comics due to the high costs of the technical procedures involved. For the The Blue Lotus, the artist produced a simplified design and gave the rejected version to his publisher’s young son, Jean-Paul Casterman. It had remained with the family ever since.

“Owing to its uniqueness, this masterpiece of comic art deserves its world record and confirms that the comic-strip market is in excellent health,” Eric Leroy, the auction house’s comic expert, said in a statement.

A drawing by Hergé. Courtesy Artcurial.

A drawing by Hergé. Courtesy Artcurial.

The Tintin series in particular has proven to be popular among collectors in recent years, with multiple high-profile sales over the $1 million mark, including the €2.5 million ($2.9 million) cover of Tintin and the Shooting Star in 2015, and the $1.1 million cover for Tintin in the Land of the Soviets in May of 2019.

The most recent auction exceeded the top pre-sale estimate of €2.8 million ($3.4 million). Three bidders battling by phone drove up the price to record levels, eclipsing the existing €2.5 million ($3.4 million) comic art record.

That work, a two-page spread used as the comic’s front pages that featured numerous scenes of Tintin and his dog, Snowy, on their adventures, was auctioned in 2014, also at Artcurial, which is responsible for eight of the top 10 prices fetched for Hergé’s works, according to the Artnet Price Database.

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