‘Psycho’ one-sheet featuring Hitchcock leads our five auction highlights

Advance one-sheet for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, which hammered for £9,500 ($12,180) and sold for £12,350 ($15,830) with buyer’s premium at Propstore.

‘Psycho’ One-sheet Featuring Hitchcock, $15,830

VALENCIA, Calif. – Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was a larger-than-life figure in Hollywood, taking delight in making cameo appearances in the films he produced and directed. In 1960, his biggest projected film to date was Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins as the soon-to-be-notorious innkeeper Norman Bates.

Hitchcock’s longtime studio, Universal Pictures, loved using Hitchcock in its advance marketing. This one-sheet poster admonishes the reader It Is Required That You See Psycho From The Very Beginning! Hitchcock stands pointing to his watch, adjacent to a position where the theater staff could mark the next upcoming showing.

The poster was from the David Frangioni collection of movie memorabilia. Frangioni is an accomplished drummer who has played with rock’s elite, and is considered one of the most knowledgeable sources of information on Clint Eastwood. It took only three bids to achieve the final hammer of £9,500 ($12,180) for the one-sheet, selling for £12,350 ($15,830) with buyer’s premium at Propstore’s Collectible Poster Live Auction – London on February 8.

Jan Matulka, ‘Still Life With Gramophone’, which hammered for $50,000 and sold for $64,500 with buyer’s premium at Schwenke.

Jan Matulka, ‘Still Life With Gramophone’, $64,500; and ‘Broadway’, $29,670

WOODBURY, Conn. – Though born in the Austro-Hungarian province of Bohemia in what is today the Czech Republic, Jan Matulka (1890-1972) made his mark in America. He was the first recipient of the Joseph Pulitzer National Traveling Scholarship in 1917, which allowed him to tour the United States and paint as he went. He is considered the first modern artist to capture the Hopi Indian ‘snake dance’, which he depicted as part of his national tour.

Schwenke Auctioneers had two Matulka works in its February 14 estate auction for Thomas and Whitney Armstrong. Still Life With Gramophone is a 1927 original that has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A fierce battle broke out over the work between the floor and LiveAuctioneers bidders. After dozens of escalations, the floor finally won out at $50,000 ($64,500 with buyer’s premium).

Broadway, an undated pencil and ink on paper, saw a similar battle waged, with the $3,000-$4,000 estimate shattered at $23,000 ($29,670 with buyer’s premium).

Jan Matulka, ‘Broadway’, which hammered for $23,000 and sold for $29,670 with buyer’s premium at Schwenke.

John Rogers, ‘The Bushwhacker / The Wife’s Appeal For Peace’, $27,500

John Rogers, ‘The Bushwhacker / The Wife’s Appeal For Peace’, which hammered for $22,000 and sold for $27,500 with buyer’s premium at Ralph Fontaine Heritage Auctions.

CANAAN, N.Y. – John Rogers (1829-1904) was a sculptor and mass marketer of plaster statues that became must-have items in 19th-century America. No home of any means would be without what was called a ‘Rogers Group,’ so named because the sculptures were designed by Rogers to tell a story.

Rogers typically worked in clay to finalize his ‘group,’ then would create a bronze master from that model. The bronze yielded multiple plaster molds that were used in turn to mass-replicate the design for public sale. Highly sought after today by a dedicated John Rogers collecting community, Rogers Groups are auction house favorites.

Ralph Fontaine Heritage Auctions brought The Bushwhacker / The Wife’s Appeal For Peace to market February 25 as part of its Wonderful Winter Estate Auction. With a presale estimate of $50-$10,000, the house didn’t know where this 22in-tall item would end up. It was described by Fontaine in the lot notes as the “rarest John Rogers group,” adding, “I was told there [are] only 5 known to exist (3 in museums).” Dated April 1865, The Bushwhacker depicts a family of three positioned around a long rifle. Furious bidding ended when a LiveAuctioneers customer offered $22,000 ($27,500 with buyer’s premium).

Hugh Ferriss, ‘The 1964 World's Fair Unisphere’, $20,910

‘The 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere’ by Hugh Ferriss, which hammered for $17,000 and sold for $20,910 with buyer’s premium at Soulis.

LONE JACK, Mo. – A work by Hugh Ferriss (1889-1962) discovered in a Missouri home was presented at Soulis Auctions on February 24. Titled by the auctioneer The 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere, the work is a charcoal on artist board depicting Ferriss’ vision for the beloved Unisphere erected in Queens for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Considering Ferriss died two years before the fair’s opening, it’s fair to say his rendering of what would ultimately be built is exceptional.

Ferriss was a Missouri native who trained as an architect, but found his calling creating architectural renderings of buildings for clients. He moved to New York and worked for famed architect Cass Gilbert, for whom he would render the planned Woolworth Building. As time went on, Ferriss’ style became darker and moodier, often depicting buildings at night with full illumination. His masterwork, 1929’s The Metropolis of Tomorrow, delivered his vision and influenced generations of architects.

The 1964 World’s Fair Unisphere carried a respectable $4,000-$6,000 presale estimate. The final hammer for the previously lost work was $17,000, or $20,910 with buyer’s premium.

François Bénévol Head-cutting Magician’s Prop, $1,600

‘Head of François Bénévol,’ which hammered for €1,100 ($1,200) and sold for €1,203 ($1,600) with buyer’s premium at Bernaerts Auctioneers BV.

ANTWERP, Belgium – François Bénévol (1865-1939) was an Italian by birth (real name: Francesco Luigi Maria Benevole) but he adopted a French accent, name, and mannerisms for his career as an illusionist. Online biographies list his duties as ‘conjurer, illusionist, acrobat [and] clown musician.’ So successful was he that in 1899 Bénévol opened Théâtre-salon Bénevol, his own performance space.

Though he is largely forgotten today, two Bénévol-related items appeared at Bernaerts Auctioneers BV as part of its Circus & Magic sale February 19 in Antwerp, Belgium. The first was billed as the Head of François Bénévola 1920s-era carved wooden likeness of the magician used in his séance performances. During the course of the program, Bénévol would appear to behead himself, earning him the nickname ‘le coupeur de têtes’ (chopper of heads). With a modest €500-€600 ($545-$655) presale estimate, the prop soared to a final hammer of €1,100 ($1,200) and sold for €1,203 ($1,600) with buyer’s premium.

A color-lithographed promotional poster for Bénévol’s act also crossed the block in the same sale. Le légendaire professeur Bénévol was undated, though the style appears to be early 20th century. It doubled its low estimate to hammer at €400 and sell for €532 ($580) with buyer’s premium.