Massive Victor Hugo memorabilia collection highlights his literature and family

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PARIS – For the 210th anniversary of Victor Hugo’s birth, Christie’s recently announced the sale of The Hugo Collection April 4, 2012. An important group of nearly 500 books, paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs, furniture and other personal objects, the collection constitutes a remarkable testimony of the lives of Victor Hugo and his descendants, Charles, Georges and Jean. Estimated in the region of $1.3 million, the sale will give the public an insight into four generations of this renowned family.

Victor Hugo’s “letter to the fiance,” addressed to Adèle Foucher, reveals his affection for his future wife.

Numerous drawings, books, furniture and other personal objects relating to the life of the great French novelist and poet will be offered at auction. The fine printed books and manuscripts section includes works concerning Victor Hugo’s intellectual and political life, as well as his private life. Of particular interest are several letters sent to close friends, including a letter signed “Victor” to Adle Foucher, written during the 1820s. The “letter to the fiance” reveals his affection for his future wife “Dear, very dear friend, I will tell you again for the thousandth time that I love you, that I adore you, and if you also love me a little, you will always find new pleasure in hearing it, as I am always delighted to repeat it” (estimate: $4,000-$6,000).

Other important items include a letter from Victor Hugo to his future father-in-law, Pierre Foucher, after his engagement with Adle (estimate: $3,000-$4,000) and another written to his son Francois-Victor, concerning his daughter Adle (estimate: $2,000-$3,000).

In the section Old Masters and 19th-century drawings, 50 or so very rare and much in demand drawings by Victor Hugo, will be presented at auction for the first time. Two of particular importance, in ink on wood, entitled “Live and Die” are presented as a pair of China ink drawings on three attached wood boards and estimated between $131,000 and $200,000.

Victor Hugo's "Live and Die" drawingsVictor Hugo’s “Live and Die” are presented as a pair of China ink drawings on three attached wood boards.

After being supportive of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte’s candidacy to the Republican presidency in 1848, Victor Hugo violently condemned the coup d’Etat of December 2nd 1851 and voluntarily exiled himself to Brussels. Following his strong rejection of the Empire, he wrote several important works including Napoleon the Little and History of a Crime, written in 1852 and The Punishments, published the following year. In memory of this short exile in Brussels, he produced Souvenir of Belgium, estimated at between $65,000 and $105,000. This wash drawing, which perhaps evokes the memory of a Flemish landscape, is presented in a poker-work frame by the artist.

The collection is also enhanced by a range of other objects illustrating family memories, such as a set of three Louis Vuitton trunks bearing the monogramme of Aline Ménard-Dorian and of Georges Hugo (estimate: $3,200-$4,600), a bridal tiara which belonged to Leopoldine (1824-1843), Victor Hugo’s daughter.

Victor Hugo portrait Forward-facing Bust Portrait of Victor Hugo produced in 1872 (estimate: $9,200-$11,800).

Collectors will also find a series of photographs relating to the Hugo family, along with several portraits including Victor Hugo Hands Folded Leaning on a Table, taken by Félix Nadar (1820-1910) in 1862 (estimate: $3,900-$5,200), and another one by Etienne Carjat (1828-1906) entitled “Forward-facing Bust Portrait of Victor Hugo” produced in 1872 (estimate: $9,200-$11,800). Etienne Carjat and Felix Nadar were major 19th-century portrait artists and produced some of the finest portraits of the writer, whose distribution contributed to his notoriety.

Madame Victor Hugo is also represented in Madame Victor Hugo in Guernsey in the Garden of Aloes, 1853-1855, photographed by Charles Hugo’s friend Auguste Vacquerie (estimate: $1,300-$1,900) as well as Juliette Drouet in Double Portrait of Juliette Drouet (Victor Hugo’s mistress for nearly 50 years) produced by the Guemar brothers in 1868 (estimate: $1,300-$1,900).

The sale takes place April 4, 2012 online at and Christie’s Paris headquarters.

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