Created in the early 1940s, this watercolor which represents Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the clothes of the Little Prince but hanged on a gallows will be put on sale Thursday by the house Drouot, in Paris. It is estimated at 100,000 euros.

It is a very touching document which is exhibited at the Maison Drouot, in Paris, from this Tuesday, before its sale on Thursday: a self-portrait by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, inspired by the character of the Little Prince. Dated from the end of 1942 or the beginning of 1943, in A4 format, this watercolor produced in New York where the writer had been exiled since 1941, has never been exhibited. Few people know of the existence of this drawing and yet it is particularly spectacular.

The effect is terrible: in the foreground, planet Earth and above a character, rope around his neck, hanging from a gallows. His silhouette is that of the Little Prince but on closer inspection, it is the face of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that appears, puff and frown. In the background is a couple hugging on a bench on another planet, called "FOX MGM" in reference to the Hollywood film industry.

This drawing was made by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry during his New York exile in 1942 or 1943. © Drouot

>> Watch Matthieu Belliard's morning show in replay and in podcast here

A heartache

How to explain this manifest despair of "Saint-Ex", when he has just published his Little Prince in the United States? According to Ludovic Miran, sales expert organized by Ka Mondo, this portrait is marked by a heartache. In 1943, the writer is preparing to leave New York but also a young American journalist, Sylvia Hamilton, with whom he is very close. "This relationship was very intimate. But there is a third character in the drawing: a producer from Fox who also has a relationship with Sylvia Hamilton."

Another version defended by Sylvia Hamilton herself: in 1943, Saint-Exupéry was furious with MGM which had just withdrawn from circulation the film Vol de Nuit , dated 1933 and adapted from her novel. This interpretation, less romantic, has become the official version of this dark watercolor which should be sold for more than 100,000 euros.

The self-portrait is exhibited on Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Salle Drouot in Paris (free but filtered entry with mask). It will be auctioned on Thursday from 1.30 p.m.