André Breton's Numismatic collection
André Breton was an industrious and avid collector of Gallic coinage for around fifteen years, making his last purchase in June 1966, shortly before his death. He was fascinated by an "art which has as its ambition to exclude blind, realistic representation in favour of expressing-through emblematic means-a major idea, that of meditation on final objectives. From the instant one enters into direct contact with them, one is aware of the sparkling, magnetic thread which winds its way through the history of these coins and of the prestige attached to them, a prestige comparable to that which ancient alchemists conferred on nostoc (from the Greek tokos and noos). This freshwater algae was said to evaporate in sunlight and, like the Philosopher's Stone, was also named spittle of May, vital fire of the skies, fat of the dew, purgatory of the stars, and Spring foam by these same alchemists. This is hardly surprising when one considers that nostoc literally means giving birth to, generation of spirit-a description of Gallic coins par excellence, even while their aim is to be a cosmic influence, at its very earliest, stumbling state." (in catalogue Pérennité de l'art gaulois, Musée pédagogique, Paris 1955.)
Dazzled by the theories of his friend Lancelot Lengyel on Gallic art in coinage, he made the effort to go beyond a symbolic, and even romantic, vision, of numismatics, taking lessons from the indisputible master, Doctor Colbert de Beaulieu, who, after a rather cold first meeting, showed him every consideration.
It is touching to see the care with which André Breton drew up his last manuscript of the catalogue of his collection in two notebooks, sensibly covered with transparent paper and rigorously organised, even if the attributions have changed since the period when it was written (this is, in fact, part of the charm of this domain, where the science is not yet rigid). The references used in this inventory are given in our descriptions, before the bibliography, using the abbreviations CV = green notebook and CR = pink notebook, and the number of the order in which the coins are listed on the page.
The collection includes 145 coinages which are described in 102 lots, to which are joined lots n° 3103 and 3104, made up of the coin box and the two manuscipts of the inventory in the hand of the artist.
To make it possible for individual collectors or institutions who would like to ensure that this prestidgious collection is not broken up, lots n° 3001 to 3104 inclusive, will be sold so as to make keeping them together possible, i.e. they will be auctioned individually on a provisional basis, then, after the sale of n° 104, the sale will be reopened so that they may be sold together if there is a bid larger than the sum of the total of the individual provisional bids. Finally, numbers 105 to 118 include several numismatic curiosities, as well as the reference books on numismatics put together by André Breton.