Bronze medal marking the launch of SS Normandie, £170 at Charles Miller.

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The largest, fastest and most luxurious ship of its age when launched in 1935, by 1941 she had been stripped of her Jean Dunand lacquer and René Lalique glass and was being converted for use as a troop carrier when she caught fire and capsized.

Included in Charles Miller’s (24% buyer’s premium) sale of maritime antiques on April 25 was a large bronze medal struck to mark the ship’s maiden voyage from Le Havre to New York. She took the Blue Riband at the first attempt.

The medal, designed by Jean Vernon for the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, depicts the liner under full steam to one side and to the reverse a standing diaphanous goddess who frees a sea-horse from its chains. Offered together with a smaller bronze medal for the 1962 SS France, it took £170.

The Normandie was the inspiration for what was perhaps AM Cassandre’s greatest poster design, the image of a towering ‘floating palace’ also commissioned to mark the opening of the ocean liner’s service with the CGT.


AM Cassandre’s poster for the Normandie’s launch in 1935, $12,000 (£9500) at Swann Galleries.

There are several variants, all of them much reproduced, but two original examples have appeared for sale in recent months. One sold for £10,000 at the sale of Travel & Vintage Posters at Lyon & Turnbull (26% buyer’s premium) on April 26 and (pictured here) another offered by Swann Galleries (35% buyer’s premium) in New York as part of a sale of Graphic Art on May 18 took $12,000 (£9500).