“Billions of Bilious Blue Blistering Barnacles!” A model of the Unicorn ship built in 1942 for Hergé himself is sold in an auction in Brussels. This model was made to help Hergé draw the Tintin album “The Secret of the Unicorn”. Estimated: between 15 and 20 000 Euros, but sold for € 32 000
It is an exceptional item for the history of the Franco-Belgian comic strip which was auctioned on 19 June at Galerie Moderne in Brussels. A model of the Unicorn ship built in 1942 for Hergé himself. This model was made to help Hergé draw the Tintin album “The Secret of the Unicorn”. All the experts knew the existence of this model, but none had ever seen it. It has just reappeared.
A mythical boat model. Three masts, fifty guns, 55 centimeters from the stern to the prow, with linen sails and a layer of dust that shows its age. The one and only ship of the captain Haddock. The real model of the Unicorn, of Hergé.
In 1942, for his naval battle scenes, the designer of Tintin asked his friend Gérard Liger-Belair, a professional model maker. Liger-Belair draws the plans of the Unicorn and builds a model that was delivered early 1943 to Hergé. The ship was thus known, but it was missing. In 1960, Hergé had offered it to his veterinarian. And it is the grandsons of this veterinarian that sell the miniature ship.
The real thing
The current owners have had the model evaluated by the biographer of Hergé, Philippe Goddin.
I was obviously very curious to see it, and indeed I came across a flickering model, a real professional work, not only with the ropes but also with all the sails. Model for a few days at home, so I had the time to examine it closely and compare it to the drawings of the album.
Between the model and the drawings, Philippe Goddin finds differences, in the decoration and also in the bottles. The rear also doesn’t match the drawings. Paradoxically, these differences reinforce the advice of the expert: it is the right model, the one Hergé speaks about in his letters and that his editor pressed to print the album advises him to neglect. “Hergé was waiting impatiently for this model to finish some drawings of the Secret of the Unicorn, including finishing the cover. As Hergé received his model only in extremis, he could not use it as much as he wanted.
“Hergé said that he used them and I believe that in reality he used the plans mainly. The plans, those of Gérard Liger-Belair, originally designed for Hergé and which will allow In the 1940s to dozens of fans to build dozens of other models of the Unicorn, but the one that will be sold in a few days remains the unique piece. “It is a historical object, that is incontestable. That’s why this discovery seemed sensational. I think the audience will merit it’s value, most certainly the real amateurs. I would would even say, it’s a museum piece! “
A ship model that could sell between 15 and 20 000 euros.
[UPDATE: sold for € 32.000]