Ludwig Bemelmans' Paintings Offer Unique Glimpse Into The World Of 'Madeline'

Original 'Madeline' Paintings Show 12 Little Girls In Two Straight Lines

Since the first book’s publication in 1939, the name “Madeline” has become practically synonymous with a certain red-headed, brave-hearted schoolgirl who lived in an old house in Paris all covered in vines.

Lot 26, Ludwig Bemelmans, "But in London There’s A Place to Get A Retired Horse To Keep as a Pet," from Madeline in London (Published 1961). Original gouache and ink drawing on board, signed "Bemelmans" in black ink, (30 x 21 in.; 763 x 533mm), c. 1960–61). Glazed and framed (not examined out of frame). Est. $30,000/50,000

The Madeline books, written and illustrated by Austrian-American author Ludwig Bemelmans, number among the most beloved children’s classics, in large part because of their spunky little heroine. “She was not afraid of mice — / She loved winter, snow, and ice,” we learn. Hardcore.

Bemelmans’ charming, color-saturated illustrations undeniably set the books apart, however. In slanting, inky lines and bold red-yellow-and-blue, Madeleine and her comrades stamp themselves firmly in our mind’s eye. Bemelmans’ art conjures a childlike, fairy tale world, where being different makes a little girl special and celebrated, and where the world seems eternally colorful and full of promise.

madeline 2
Lot 27, Ludwig Bemelmans, "These Birds Have Seen All This Before," from Madeline in London (Published 1961). Original gouache and ink drawing, signed "Bemelmans" in black ink, (23 1/4 x 36 in.; 591 x 914mm), c. 1960–61), with faint inked oval stamp in the lower margin reading "Bemelmans/Madeline." Glazed and framed (not examined out of frame). Est. $30,000/50,000

In a few lush original Madeline artworks, on auction at Sotheby’s New York this month, Bemelmans’ gifts are on full display in two studies for Madeline in London and a Parisian street scene from the same period. The familiar hat-bedecked girls are out and about, in two straight lines, framed by arresting sketches of flamingos, red-clad horsemen and imposing castles.

And as usual, the smallest one is Madeline.

madeline 3
Lot 29, Ludwig Bemelmans, "Parisian Street Scene with Madeline, Miss Clavel, and Pupils," (Late 1950’s –early 1960’s). Original gouache and ink drawing on paper, signed "Bemelmans" in black ink, (23 1/2 x 17 1/4 in.; 597 x 438mm), c. late 1950's–early 1960's. Matted, glazed and framed. Est. $25,000/35,000

The Madeline sale will take place during Sotheby’s Fine Books and Manuscripts auction on June 19.

Go To Homepage

Popular in the Community