Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)
An original watercolour of the Little Prince, used to illustrate the book, [New York], [1942]
275 x 215mm. Pencil, ink and watercolour, on American ‘Fidelity Onion Skin’ paper. A few marginal annotations, probably for the printer: ‘Color’ (top left) and ‘p. 59’ (lower margin). Provenance : Sotheby’s, 18 May 1989, lot 317.

An exceptional original watercolour of the Little Prince, reproduced in the first edition of the book, as a full-page illustration on page 59. It depicts the Little Prince just after his arrival on earth: landing in the Sahara Desert, he meets a snake, with whom he converses, commenting on its appearance (chapter 18):

"You are a funny animal," he said at last. "You are no thicker than a finger..."
"But I am more powerful than the finger of a king," said the snake.
The little prince smiled.
"You are not very powerful. You haven't even any feet. You cannot even travel..."
"I can carry you farther than any ship could take you," said the snake.
He twined himself around the little prince's ankle, like a golden bracelet.
"Whomever I touch, I send back to the earth from whence he came," the snake spoke again. "But you are innocent and true, and you come from a star..."

Original drawings and watercolours in their near-complete or final versions as reproduced in the first edition of the Little Prince (published 1943), such as the present example, are of the utmost interest and scarcity. Most of the known examples are in institutional collections, the Morgan Library being the most prominent holding. Two comparable original watercolours were sold in Paris in 2017, for 283,500€ and 217,500€ respectively (Artcurial, 14 June 2017, lots 81 and 82).

Literature: Alban Cerisier, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Dessins. Aquarelles, pastels, plumes et crayons, cat. 454, reproduced in black and white p. 295.

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