Rodolphe Tessier to Auction Objects Owned by Mime Marcel Marceau

On 26 & 27 May 2009 at the Hôtel Drouot in Paris, auctioneer Rodolphe Tessier will offer for sale a wealth of items from the Estate of Marcel Marceau.

The exceptional auction pays homage to one of the most fabled French performing artists of the 20th century, whose poetic genius was renowned around the world. His talent, and universally appealing mode of expression, propelled him into the spotlight from New York to Bombay and Beijing to Moscow, with generations of audiences admiring the man who transformed Mime into a veritable Art of Silence.

Most of the works come from Marcel Marceau’s home in the village of Berchères-sur-Vesgres, 40 miles west of Paris. The sale spans Marceau’s career, evoking his famous character, Bip, and some of his most memorable artistic encounters – like the one with Michael Jackson, who was influenced by Marceau’s dance-step routine Walking into the Wind for his immortal Moonwalk.

Cary Grant, Rudolf Nureyev, Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, Ginger Rogers, Gary Cooper, Vittorio Gassman and Maurice Chevalier were among a host of stars keen to be photographed with Marcel Marceau after watching his shows. Photographers who captured these encounters for posterity include Falko Dreyer, Michel Petit, Peggy Leder, Henri Dauman, Nicolas de Halleux and Colette Masson.

In September 1955 Marceau visited the United States for the first time, performing at the Phoenix Theater on Broadway. The critics from the New York Times and Herald Tribune were captivated, ranking Marceau alongside Charlie Chaplin and Mack Sennett as the heirs to the great pantomime tradition. Marceau promptly become a much in-demand guest on American TV shows, and received an Emmy Award. His American tour was meant to last two weeks, but he ended up staying for seven months!

The sale will offer the chance to acquire photographs of Marceau performing some of his most famous sketches, such as La Création du Monde (The Creation), Le Jardin Public (In The Park), Le Fabricant de Masques (The Mask Maker), Le Papillon (The Butterfly), La Cage (The Cage), Le Funambule (The Tightrope Walker) and Mangeur de Cœur (Heart Eater)… His hallmark character Bip with his white face and hooped jersey, created in 1947, will accompany him for the rest of his life. Each lot of photographs has an estimate of around €200-300.

An important part of the sale will be devoted to Marceau’s own drawings, while other works of art include rare ensembles of Japanese theatre dolls and Nô theatre masks, displaying clear aesthetic kinship with Marceau’s own dramatic art. Also of note is a very fine Turkish Magician musical automaton (c.1898) by the French firm Rambour, perfectly in keeping with Marceau’s on-stage persona (estimate €7000/ 9000).

There will also be sections devoted to silverware, Judaica, horology, folk art and stage costumes owned by Marceau – along with over a hundred books reflecting Marceau’s personal research and preoccupation with drama, the theatre, and the art of mime. These include Henri Decremps’ La Magie Blanche Dévoilée (White Magic Unveiled) from 1788, dealing with the work of the Italian court magician Giovanni Pinetti, who specialized in tricks involving automatons (est. €800/ 1000).

There will also be manuscripts, letters, correspondence and modern illustrated books, including a signed copy of Serge Gainsbourg’s Marie Lou (est. €2000/ 3000) and two works by Pablo Neruda with handwritten dedications to Marcel Marceau (€700/ 1000).

Top