An original cover of the comic book Asterix and Cleopatra from 1963 was put up for auction on Sunday December 10 in Brussels but did not find a buyer after a legal challenge from the daughter of the designer Albert Uderzo.
The famous gouache, representing the reclining Egyptian queen and the two Gallic heroes Asterix and Obelix, was to be sold by the Brussels auction house Millon. Measuring 32 by 17 centimeters, this work was likely to be sold for between 400,000 and 500,000 euros, but no offer was made at the starting price and it was ultimately not sold.
Millon managing director Arnaud de Partz said buyers may have been put off by the complaint from the daughter of French designer Albert Uderzo, who died in 2020. Sylvie Uderzo argued that if her father had given the painting away , he would have signed and dedicated it, and therefore this painting must have been stolen. Millon insists she is selling the work on behalf of the son of a man who received it more than fifty years ago from Uderzo, the co-creator of the Asterix series.
Sylvie Uderzo filed a complaint with the prosecution on November 27. But the Brussels public prosecutor’s office finally noted “absence of infringement” and decided on Friday to close the complaint, according to an email from a prosecutor to lawyers.
A photo of Uderzo and the buyer of the drawing
Sylvie Uderzo’s lawyer Orly Rezlan had warned that any buyer of the original drawing could be prosecuted for receiving stolen goods, an idea rejected by the auctioneers. “During his lifetime, Albert Uderzo publicly declared that he would oppose the sale of any drawing that did not include his dedication”argued the lawyer last week.
But Millon ures that many other unsigned pieces by Uderzo have already been put up for public auction before. And the house produced a photo in which we see a man presented as the buyer of the drawing sharing a meal at the table of the Uderzo couple, in the garden of a Normandy hotel at the end of the 1960s. “We showed this photo to Sylvie Uderzo to show her that the seller’s father knew her father well”explained Arnaud de Partz.
The story ofAsterix and Cleopatra appeared as a serial in Pilot magazine in 1963 and was bound as the sixth adventure book in the series in 1965. The cover parodies the poster for the Hollywood epic Cleopatra from 1963, then the most expensive ever made, with Uderzo’s Cleopatra in the same pose as his film star Elizabeth Taylor.
In recent years, works of art from original editions of French and Belgian comic books such as Asterix or Tintin have attracted wealthy collectors and investors. In February, the original cover of Tintin in America by Belgian Hergé, dating from 1942, was sold in Paris for 2.16 million euros. But the estates of late comic book authors and illustrators fiercely guard the rights to what have become global brands, and several sales have sparked controversy.
The World with AFP