Art Nouveau beauties, war images, Mather Work Incentive posters draw bidders to Aug. 5 auction

NEW YORK—Stunning Art Nouveau posters by noted artists were among the top lots in Swann Galleries’ Aug. 5 auction of Vintage Posters. A book containing 200 rich color plates of celebrated posters by various Art Nouveau artists, L’Estampe Moderne, two volumes, Paris, 1897-99, brought $21,600. All prices include buyer’s premium.

Nicholas Lowry, Swann Auction Galleries President and Poster Specialist, said, “This sale defied all recession-era predictions and brought collectors and dealers out in big numbers. Prices remained buoyant, even strong, for quality pieces. And the overall results seem to point to an easing of the more stringent budgets buyers have imposed on themselves during the economic downturn.”

Other top-selling Art Nouveau images were Privat Livemont’s Absinthe Robette, Brussels, 1896, $12,000; Alphonse Mucha’s Monaco-Monte-Carlo, Paris, 1897, $14,400; and A. Panina’s sensuous Marsala Rallo, featuring a bare-breasted beauty bathed in golden light, Bergamo $5,040.

An auction record of $8,400 was set for Karl Koehler and Victor Ancona’s This is the Enemy, New York, 1942, which was one of many fine World War I and II posters. The image is a chilling portrait of a Nazi officer with a gallows reflected in his monocle. Other American war posters included Fred Spears’ Enlist, New York, 1915, one of the rarest World War I posters published in the United States, $5,280; and Clarence Coles Phillips’s Light Consumes Coal, Chicago, circa 1918, $7,800.

A surprisingly popular item was a group of approximately 23 posters by various artists advertising Ferry’s Seeds, among them Haskell Coffin’s Ready for Planting depicting a lovely young woman in overalls saluting the viewer while holding a shovel in her other hand. The collection brought $10,800 against an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000.

Bidders also competed for many Mather Work Incentive posters. Three of the most desirable examples were The Woolworth Building was built with 5¢ pieces, a tribute to the building in lower Manhattan, 1924; 2 Strikes 3 Balls and …, a baseball-themed image, Chicago, 1925; and Who Said “Can’t?” with a prop plane in flight, 1929, which sold for $3,360 each.

Rounding out the sale were Leopoldo Metlicovitz’s Sunlight Soap, Milan, 1900, $4,080; a pair of decorative panels by Jacques Lehmann depicting cats, $3,840; and A.M. Cassandre’s Dubonnet, circa 1956, $4,080.

Complete auction results are available online at, and by request from Swann Auction Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010. A fully illustrated color catalog can be purchased for $35.

For information about upcoming auctions of vintage posters, please contact Gwendolyn Rayner at 212-254-4710, extension 53, or via e-mail at