Letters and Signatures from Lion Heart Autographs
Autographs from Lion Heart.
By Michael Stillman
This month we received our first catalogue from Lion Heart Autographs. What is offered, naturally, is one-of-a-kind material, autographed, usually with an inscription. The autographs come from the pens of various famous people. Artists, writers, musicians, political leaders, scientists, businessmen are among those who put their names to paper, and all are notable within their fields. Often, the pieces are lengthy and complex letters, revealing interesting insights into the minds of the writers. Lion Heart has presented a most thorough catalogue. They quote extensively from the longer letters, and provide backgrounds into the life of the artist or other person who signed the piece. This catalogue is an education, as well as a source of some wonderful material.
There are very many letters and other signed documents from famed musicians. Not to be a namedropper, but here are a few: Stravinksy, Caruso, Armstrong, Strauss, Gershwin and Gershwin, Brahms, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Wagner, Mendessohn, Schumann and Puccini. Representing literature there are Dickens, Wordsworth, Wilder, Le Carre, Christie, Shaw, Tennessee Williams and Henry Miller. A separate section of the catalogue is devoted to F.C. Schang's collection of artists' letters, including names such as Picasso, Dali, Chagall, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Whistler, Remington, Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Matisse, O'Keeffe, and Mount Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum. There are political leaders, Napoleon and Josephine, Napoleon III, George III and George IV, Danton and Robespierre from the French Reign of Terror (the latter represented by a drinking poem he wrote!), Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Clemenceau, Rochambeau, and Zapata. From science and medicine there is Marie Curie and the Mayo Brothers. Psychology is represented by Freud and Jung. Business offers Hearst and Baruch, the latter represented by a most interesting response to the virulent anti-Semitism of Henry Ford. Acting has Isadora Duncan and Sarah Bernhardt. Mutineering has William Bligh, and for the sucker born every minute, there is Phineas Taylor (P.T.) Barnum. Here are a few specific examples.
Ernest Hemingway was a tough guy, but even he was pushed to his limit in 1954 when he was involved in back-to-back small airplane crashes in Africa. In his inimitable style, he writes eldest son John, "Liver and kidney (right) were busted liver damaged with spleen right kidney ruptured and intestine collapsed etc. And have lost a lot of blood and am bloody weak and have to get the gen and build up. Had to fight a brush fire on the coast and got 2nd degree burns legs, abdomen, chest, etc. and 3rd degree left hand right forearm." He then goes on to point out, "No son of a bitch is indestructible." In a postscript, "Papa" discusses his "paralysis of sphincter" and more scatological details of this problem, but if you want to know about this, you will have to buy his letter, or at least get a copy of the catalogue. Item 42. Priced at $5,800.
Letters and Signatures from Lion Heart Autographs
Mata Hari was not dressed in her exotic dancer's outfit when she posed for this 1906 photograph.
In a letter to a councilor, the French King Louis XIV wrote (translated from the French), "How much am I obliged to divine providence for the protection given my army and to the glory it experienced and which it received. I desire along with all my subjects to be always worthy of His assistance and to finally obtain a satisfactory peace." Not bad writing for a six-year-old. Louis ascended to the French throne at the ripe age of four, but it would be almost twenty more years before he assumed control. One can't help but suspect that this letter was ghostwritten on his behalf, though it does bear his youthful signature. The letter was written after some battlefield successes during the seemingly endless wars that went on in Europe for centuries. Louis XIV would rule for 72 years, and outlive his children and grandchildren, regency passing all the way to a great-grandson on his death. Item 56 is this 1645 youthfully signed letter. $2,500.
She was the most famous exotic dancer the French ever knew. Margaretha McLeod, recently divorced from an abusive husband, emigrated from Holland to France in 1904. Poor and alone, she reinvented herself as an exotic Javanese dancer. Within a year, Mata Hari, as she renamed herself, was the rage of Paris. She became a great celebrity with fans following her to venues all across Europe where she danced. She was at the top of her game in 1906 when she signed item 57, a picture of herself demurely posed. She signed it with both names, Greta McLeod and Mata Hari. A decade later, things would not go so well for Mata Hari. She was known to be involved with many men, and supposedly this led to her being convinced to become a German spy during the First World War. Intercepted messages are supposed to have shown her guilt, but there remains much question whether she was actually an innocent set up by a government looking for scapegoats. In 1917, Mata Hari was executed by a firing squad, her severed head and body sent to the Museum of Anatomy. Somewhere along the way, both parts of her disappeared, and no one knows where they are today. Fortunately, her picture survives, and you can buy it. $3,500.
You will find many more fascinating letters and signed items in Lion Heart Autographs' Catalogue 44. The Park Avenue South, New York, autograph dealer may be found online at www.lionheartautographs.com, telephone 212-779-7050.