Christie’s today: The thrill of the race

Posters expert William Crouse introduces five Art Deco posters that captured the spirit of the early Monaco Grand Prix, ahead of our Posters sale in London on 5 November 2015

The race

Robert Falcucci (1900-1989), Monaco, 1932. Lithograph in colours. Estimate: £12,000-18,000.

On April 14, 1929 the Monaco race became the seventh Grand Prix event — quickly growing to become the most popular race on the circuit. French illustrator Roberto Falcucci began to produce posters for the event in 1930. ‘Falcucci’s third and final poster for the Grand Prix de Monaco is action-packed. In a masterful display of pastels, he contrasted the tranquil and sunny slopes of the Riviera with the blur of two speeding racers,’ comments author William Crouse.

The drivers

Geo Ham (Georges Hamel, 1900-1972), Monaco, 1933. Lithograph in colours. Estimate: £10,000-15,000. 

Georges Hamel, known as the “prince of motion”, was considered by many to be the most talented automobile poster artist of his era,’ explains Crouse. ‘His works are readibly recognizable by his signature driver’s scarf blowing in the wind and by his prominent use of palm trees, which were first introduced by Falcucci in his 1932 poster. Hamel, who signed his works as ‘Geo Ham,’ designed all six of the famous, beautiful and rare Grand Prix de Monaco posters from 1933 to 1948.’ 

The speed

Geo Ham (Georges Hamel, 1900-1972), Monaco, 1935. Estimate: £10,000-15,000. 

‘Geo Ham’s 1935 Grand Prix poster presents a streamlined “Silver Arrow”, the Mercedes W25 so called because the German company scraped the white paint of the Mercedes-Benz cars down to the raw metal so that they could make the required weight limit. With Ham’s ever-present scarf flying in the wind and overhanging palm trees, the “Silver Arrow” is leading a red Alfa Romeo up the hill. In the background, Monaco Ville and Mont Angel are expertly portrayed.’

The cars

Geo Ham (Georges Hamel, 1900-1972), Monaco, 1936. Lithograph in colours. Estimate: £8,000-12,000.

‘Geo Ham’s 1936 poster brilliantly depicts the battle between the Germans and Italians in the Monaco race. Here, a stylish Auto Union GL, the first of the rear-engine race cars, leads a red Alfa Romeo through an extremely tight turn,’ says Crouse. ‘Monaco’s wealth is easily seen in the majestic yachts and passenger ships in the port; and of course, here again are Ham’s signature palm tree and scarf blowing in the wind.’ 

The crowd

Michel Bouchaud, La plage de Monte, 1929. Lithograph in colours. Estimate: £6,000 — 8,000. 

‘The 1929 race was a perfect beginning for the first running of the Grand Prix de Monaco,’ Crouse explains. ‘A crowd estimated at 100,000 filled the stands, which were set up all around the course, and every hotel window and balcony was full of spectators. In fact, the first Grand Prix de Monaco race attracted the largest crowd of people ever seen in the principality, and not even the impending Depression would prevent the race from becoming world famous.’