After years in a drawer, Tintin painting tipped to fetch over 2 million euros

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Painting for the original cover of "The Blue Lotus" Tintin comic book auctioned by Artcurial in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) - A painting of comic book hero Tintin that for years was kept folded in a drawer is to go on sale at a Paris auction house on Thursday with an estimated sale price of more than 2 million euros.

The painting is the work of Belgian illustrator Georges Remi, better known by his nom de plume Herge, who was the author of the Tintin comic books. He died in 1983.

Herge submitted the painting for his editor as a proposed cover for the pre-World War Two Tintin album "The Blue Lotus," according to the Artcurial auction house.

But Herge's publisher rejected the painting, on the grounds that the colours chosen would make it too expensive to print.

A different Herge image was used for the cover, and the illustrator instead gave the rejected image as a gift for Jean-Louis Casterman, heir to the publishing house that published the Tintin books.

The painting was kept by Casterman, folded in a draw. Until his death, he declined offers to sell the work, saying he treasured it as a gift from Herge, according to Eric Leroy, comic book expert at Artcurial.

The work has never before been offered for sale, said Leroy. The estimate for the auction is set at between 2.2 million euros and 2.8 million euros.

The image shows the intrepid young reporter Tintin, in oriental dress and flanked by his dog, Snowy, hiding in a vase from a rampant red dragon.

The painting, in ink, watercolour and gouache, still bears the marks where it was folded.

"It's the most beautiful item that's on the market in private hands," said Leroy.

(Reporting by Lea Guedj; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Angus MacSwan)