The Golden Age of Magic Posters - The Nielsen Collection Part I

by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
June 25, 2016 10:00 AM CST Live auction
Chicago, IL, US | Auction Details

324 Lots

4: Anderson, Professor. (John Henry Anderson) Professor Anderson for a Few Nights Longer. [London], 1857. Striking two-color letterpress broadside bearing a central woodcut of Anderson holding a magnet over the head of a young boy. The balance of the poster is filled with humorous and descriptive text. 20 x 30". Repairs to left margin not affecting text, old central fold; A-. Arguably the greatest self-promoter in the history of magic, Anderson (1814 – 1874) found innumerable ways to keep his name before the public and advertise his show. He frequently used the medium of the gift show – as advertised here – to draw patrons to theatre, but he also had pats of butter with his portrait on them distributed to homes and taverns near where he was appearing, among other promotional devices. When necessary, he fictionalized stories of his accomplishments, but more often found clever ways to word his advertising, or create a startling happening in the towns where he performed. He also fancied himself an actor, though his prowess as a thespian was considerably less than his ability as a conjurer. He frequently performed the lead role in Robb Roy, and built two theaters which he hoped to operate in perpetuity, but both of them cost him his fortune. Known far and wide as the “Great Wizard of the North,” Anderson was Scottish by birth, toured the British Isles constantly, and also brought his show to Canada, America, and Hawaii around the time of the Civil War.
Est: $3,000 - $4,000
49: Clivette, Merton. The Great Clivette Co. New York: Miner Litho, ca. 1900. Bust portrait of “The Man in Black” with four colorful imps and an owl looking on, one imp writing into a memorandum book “Clivette/The leading Magician of the World.” 28 x 42". Borders, small losses and tears in image expertly restored; B. Rare. Born in Wisconsin in 1868 and raised in the Wyoming Territory, instead of running away with the circus, Clivette’s first exposure to show business was as an acrobat, juggler, and magician touring with a Wild West show. A performer in early vaudeville, he toured the Orpheum circuit in the 1890s, and later co-edited the periodical Artist-Era with George Little. In addition to a magic act consisting primarily of sleight of hand with coins and cards, he presented masterful shadowgraphs. Clivette left the stage in the early years of the twentieth century, and became a well-regarded and widely exhibited artist. Considered one of the early Ashcan School artists and a well-known expressionist, he painted in America, then traveled to Europe where he studied with the famous sculptor, Auguste Rodin, and painted what some claimed is the “greatest of all portraits of the sculptor.” Other subjects included American Indians and women in burlesque attire. Throughout the 1920s, his work was frequently exhibited both in America and abroad. Even in death, Clivette remains a mysterious figure, as no known date of death has been reported for the original “Man in Black.”
Est: $4,000 - $5,000
87: Fox, Imro (Isidore Fuchs). Imro Fox and his Own Co. The Alchemist’s Power. New York: The Miner Litho Co., ca. 1900. Striking poster shows a wizard in a conical hat levitating a woman in front of him, with lightning rays radiating from his fingertips. 27 ½ x 40 ½". Borders trimmed, minor retouching and wear in image; B+. The only known example of this poster. Fox, German by birth, was working as a chef in a Washington, D.C. hotel when he stumbled – literally – into a career before the footlights. According to various biographies, when asked to fill in for a magician who, thanks to his penchant for “flowing bowl” could not meet his engagement, Fox stepped in though only an amateur magician at the time. He was so nervous that he fumbled through many of his tricks. The lesson learned, however, was that clowning got laughs, and the tricks got gasps. And so he set out on a successful career as a vaudeville magician and – as advertised in this poster – as a solo artist with his own company of performers. This poster does not depict Fox – who was bald, and wore a thick mustache – but likely shows a scene from his show which was probably some sort of magical playlet, presented as part of a longer show. Perhaps Fox played the role of the wizard depicted here. The trend toward mini-dramas filled with magic tricks and stage illusions like the levitation was established by the Maskelyne family of London, who made a career out of short plays featuring miraculous stage illusions.
Est: $5,000 - $7,000
121: Houdini, Harry (Ehrich Weisz). Houdini Presents His Own Original Invention. The Greatest Sensational Mystery Ever Attempted In This or Any Other Age. Cincinnati: The Strobridge Litho. Co., 1916. Vibrant and imposing poster advertising what is perhaps the most famous of all of Houdini’s escapes, the fabled Water Torture Cell. Text at the bottom of the poster advertises a $1,000 reward to anyone who can prove Houdini can breathe while upside down in the “water filled torture cell.” 39 x 84". Image uniformly toned, very tiny scattered restoration; A-. Rare. Built in England at the tremendous cost of some $10,000, Houdini’s Water Torture cell was both a sensational and important escape device. The artist’s representation of the Cell in this poster is unusual in that it includes an outer jail-like framework around the tank. Early on, a cell-like device was lowered into the water, apparently adding a further layer of difficulty to the escape. This was later discarded. Outer bars were less-frequently used, though spectators were invited to secure them with their own locks, adding yet another layer of difficulty to the feat. Houdini’s earlier water escape, the Milk Can, was brilliant for its time, but easy for his imitators to copy, construct, and perform. The Water Torture Cell, on the other hand, was not so easily duplicated. Importantly it allowed the audience to see him while submerged, an innovation that made the stunt both sensational and an audience favorite. Of the effect, Houdini himself wrote, “Imagine yourself jammed head foremost in a cell filled with water, your hands and feet unable to move, and your shoulders tightly lodged in this imprisonment. I believe it is the climax of all my studies and labors. Never will I be able to construct anything that will be more dangerous or difficult for me to do.”
Est: $50,000 - $70,000


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Potter & Potter is pleased to conduct the first of two highly anticipated auctions of the Nielsen collection. Over 400 magic posters, spanning the "golden age" of the artform, from 1880 - 1930 and beyond, will be offered in the first sale. Unique, rare, and unusual images will go on the block, along with classic and iconic designs.

Buyer's Premium
From: To: Increment:
$0 $29 $5
$30 $99 $10
$100 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $4,999 $200
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $49,999 $1,000
$50,000 $99,999 $2,000
$100,000+ $4,000

Shipping Terms: Auction House will ship, at Buyer's expense.