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According to Christie’s specialist Nicolette White, these sales are privately dominated mostly by British and European ski enthusiasts wanting a striking image or a view of their favourite resort for their homes or their ski chalets, as was evidenced by the fact that a very high proportion of the buyers made just one purchase.

The sale was slightly smaller than last year’s 308-lot offering and made a shade less: £222,210 compared with £258,000. More significant, perhaps, was the lower take-up, just under two thirds by lot compared with just under three quarters the year before. Possibly economic gloom and the uncertainty of the global situation slightly dented the enthusiasm even for the usually bullish ski brigade.

As usual, Switzerland, which has the highest proportion of resorts regarded as collectable in this graphic form, provided the lion’s share of the content. At 111 lots Swiss posters accounted for almost half the sale and the best prices, courtesy of glamorous locations like St Moritz. “We had our best ever selection of St Moritz posters,” said Nicolette White, and it included some images Christie’s had not offered before.

France followed with 64 lots, with smaller selections for Germany, Austria, Italy and Norway, and a miscellaneous section featuring various countries and ski-related items and general alpine and ski-orientated paintings (pictures that featured a specific location were included within the various country sections).

Overall, it was the smaller sections that proved more of a struggle and provided proportionately more of the unsolds. The German and Austrian posters were particularly difficult with less than half the entries finding a home.

It was no surprise to see a St Moritz poster topping the bill as Emil Cardinaux’s stylish interwar view of the terrace of the Palace Hotel provided Christie’s with their highest price. The £9000 tendered by a European private collector for the 4ft 2in x 3ft (1.27m x 90cm) image was at the upper end of the auctioneers’ pre-sale estimate, but £1000 less than this image made when a version went under the hammer in February 2002. The same artist’s same-sized but earlier, 1918, St Moritz scene featuring skiers and a sleigh making their way through the pine trees managed £7500, comfortably over expectations, while that same price represented almost double predictions for Carl Moos’ dynamic image of a skier in full flight on a 3ft 4in x 2ft 1in (1.02m x 64cm) poster. “It was a fantastic image, an action skier and people liked the colours,” said Nicolette White.

Other posters for St Moritz that featured amongst the top prices were the anonymously designed photo/lithographic combination, another action-packed skiing image printed by Orell Fussli measuring 4ft 2in x 3ft (1.27m x 90cm), which realised £7000, and Plinio Colombi’s 3ft 4in x 2ft 1in (1.02m x 64cm) sunlit, snow-covered alpine scene at a mid-estimate £6000.

Over the border

The best price from the French posters was the £7500 paid for Francisco Tamagno’s famous c.1900 image of a turn-of-the-century sporting couple launching themselves off a mountain slope and extolling the attractions of Chamonix, Mont Blanc as the place for winter sports in general and skiing, skating, bobsleigh and luge in particular.

This was followed at £4500 by Paul Henri Lafon’s large and rare 5ft 4in x 3ft 5in (1.64 x 1.06m) poster for the Club Alpin Francais’ 4th international ski competition in the Pyrenees, from January 21-27, 1910, an image that Christie’s had never offered before.

Even outside the top dozen prices it was noticeable that images that were particularly striking tended to be pursued well past estimate. Theo Doro’s silhouetted skiing figure in action on a 1931 poster advertising Winter sports in the Vosges, courtesy of the Chemin de Fer de L’Est, on a linen-backed 3ft 2in x 2ft 1in (97 x 64cm) poster came in at £2400 against expectations of £1200-1600, for example, while Alex Walter Diggelmann’s 4ft 2in x 3ft (1.27m x 90cm) poster of 1937 for Gstaad doubled estimate at £2800.

The small Norwegian section at the end also produced what seemed like strong prices. Norwegian posters have done well before in these sales, although they don’t appear in quantity, a case, perhaps, of demand outstripping supply?

D. Banssen’s mid-1930s Norway, the Home of Skiing, a 3ft 3in x 2ft (99 x 61cm) image showing the legginged, socked and booted calf of a cross-country skier, doubled expectations to make £1300, while Norway, the Cradle of Skiing, a 1951 poster of the same size featuring a young infant in a wooden cot precociously holding ski poles in one hand, came in at £1900 against expectations of £600-800.

Although the miscellaneous section met with a cooler reception overall, one entry that plainly tickled the room’s fancy was a framed watercolour and pencil study entitled The Repair showing two glamorous 1920s skiers on the slope, one effecting a rapid on-the-spot mend to the seat of her companion’s trousers. Signed A Vallée, the 11 x 8in (28 x 21cm) painting was contested by the telephone to £5000 against expectations of £1000-1500.

While there was no shortage of posters that would set buyers back £1000 or more, it is possible to purchase a more affordable decorative example of winter sports wall power at these events if you are prepared to aim for more recent productions or for less famous or less specific locations. While Cardinaux’s iconic image of St Moritz’s Palace Hotel would have set you back £9000 plus premium, Franco Barberis’ coloured 3ft 4in x 2ft 1in (1.02m x 65cm) lithographic image of 1948 featuring the resort’s Sun emblem doing a particularly acrobatic ski jump could be had for a lower estimate £400.