Several groups of Eugene Atgets hit the French auction market over the last couple of months, but the best group came up at Galerie Ceysson-Bénétière just before the AIPAD Photography Show opened. I was on the phone for the bids while we were setting up for the show. The auction house is located in Saint-Étienne near Lyon. Christophe Goeury was the auction expert for the sale.
The three lots of images of prostitutes were among Atget's best known and sought after images. The provenance was also interesting, because the group was found among canvases at the home of the famed art critic Gustave Coquiot. And, unlike other such images that appeared recently, at least one was in fine condition, and that one was perhaps the most famous in the series.
The first lot (lot 26), the single prostitute in the doorway (La Villette, fille publique faisant le quart, 19e, avril 1921), was clearly the finest print and image of the three. Although estimated at a mere 15,000-18,000 euros, I knew that other prints had sold well into six figures, but that was under unique conditions with several individuals who were no longer in the marketplace. Although I ultimately failed in my attempt, I had pushed the price up (with buyer's premium) to over 70,000 euros as the underbidder.
The other two prints also did well over their estimates. The Three Prostitutes on the doorstep went at €21,080, and then Coin, boulevard de la Chapelle and rue Fleury (€7,440).