For Sale: An Original Illustration of Antoine De Saint-Exupéry's 'Little Prince'

Artcurial / Artcurial

If you’re a book lover with a child-like soul (and a very adult bank account), you can soon own a piece of literary history: an original watercolor illustration from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. The work will be publicly displayed for the first time at French auction house Artcurial’s annual Spring Selection exhibition in New York City, running from May 3 to 9 at the Arader Galleries [PDF]. The watercolor will later be sold at auction in Paris on May 31, with a guide price of $56,000 to $67,000, The Guardian reports.

Saint-Exupéry's family owned the signed drawing, which depicts the author’s titular child hero surrounded by sand dunes, scarf blowing in the desert wind. Taken from the book’s original edition, the image corresponds with the following paragraph:

“This night I didn’t see him get under way. He had slipped away silently. When I succeeded in joining him he was walking at a rapid pace. He only said to me: -Ah, you’re there. And he took me by the hand. But he was still tormented: -You shouldn’t have come. You’ll have sorrow. I’ll seem to have died and it won’t be true...”

Saint-Exupéry was a celebrated French aviator and writer whose lesser-known works include a 1931 novel, Night Flight (Vol de nuit) and the 1939 memoir Wind, Sand and Stars (Terre des hommes). In 1940, Saint-Exupéry moved to New York with his wife, Consuelo, to escape Nazi-occupied France. An American publisher's wife saw one of Saint-Exupéry’s idle drawings, and suggested he try his hand at children’s books. In 1942, Saint-Exupéry began drafting The Little Prince while staying at the Bevin House in Northport, Long Island.

Published the following year, Saint-Exupéry’s illustrated work about a childlike alien’s friendship with a stranded aviator became one of history’s most praised and widely read books. Over 145 million copies have been sold, and the novella has been translated from its original French into 270 languages.

Saint-Exupéry died in a plane crash in 1944. The Pierpont Morgan library in New York later acquired The Little Prince’s original manuscript and sketches, and his wife took the original watercolors back to France.

[h/t The Guardian]