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One of the 70 silver prints of People of the 20th Century by August Sander that realised €770,000 (£663,795) at Grisebach.

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For 20 years, from 1912-32, the German photographer August Sander (1876-1964) devoted most of his energy to his monumental project People of the 20th Century.

He set out to document different professions, social classes and age groups to provide a pictorial archive of German society. The work was intended to encompass 45 differing categories, each with 12 portraits, but was never completed.

During the Second World War, Sander came under pressure from the Nazis on account of his political views. In 1944, even though his studio was bombed, he managed to save almost all of his negatives. However, in a twist of fate, he lost some 30,000 of them in a fire in Cologne after the war had ended in 1946. This event effectively put an end to his active life as a photographer.

A few years before his death in 1964, Sander chose 70 exemplary portraits from his series to be shown at exhibitions in German museums.

At his behest Sander’s son produced a set of silver-gelatin prints of varying sizes (between 16 x 11in and 20 x 15in; 41 x 27cm and 50 x 39cm) between 1961-63. This was the last run of prints to have been produced during Sander’s lifetime and is a unique combination of size and subjects.

Having formerly been in the collection of August Sander, the set came to the auction from a European corporate collection. The hammer fell at €770,000 (£663,795) against a guide of €300,000-500,000.

Horse sense

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Front view of the postcard by Franz Marc that made €630,000 (£543,100).

The postcard was painted by the German Expressionist Franz Marc in 1913. It was titled Grünes und weißes Pferd (Green and White Horse).

In the previous years, Marc had become fascinated with imagining how the world looked through an animal’s eyes. His work became a synthesis of colour and poetic spirituality in which the animals he portrayed transcended nature.

The card on offer in Berlin for €250,000-350,000 was one of his earliest pieces. It remained in his possession until November 1915, when he sent it to Elisabeth Macke, the widow of his close friend and colleague August Macke, who had been killed at the front in 1914.

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Back view of the postcard by Franz Marc that made €630,000 (£543,100).

In his text Marc describes how he found the card in his desk at home while on leave from the front: “It dates to more peaceful times, when we used to send such brightly coloured greetings.” Only a year later, Marc himself was killed in action at Verdun.

Most of his painted postcards are in museums but this one was consigned by a German collector. After bidding from several quarters it was knocked down to a south German collector for €630,000 (£543,100).

£1 = €1.16