From February 17th through June 26th, 2022, Air France is partnering the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, which is organising the first major museum exhibition in France dedicated to the timeless literary masterpiece The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
For the occasion, more than six hundred works celebrate the many facets of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s extraordinary life (1900-1944) as a writer, poet, explorer and aviator, notably for Air France.
As a tribute to this great writer, who played a major part in the airline’s origins, Air France flew several pages of the original manuscript of The Little Prince from New York, where they have always been kept, to Paris. Carefully protected in the hold of flight AF007, which landed at Paris-Charles de Gaulle on February1st, they are being put on display in France for the first time.
Air France has also drawn on its rich heritage of some 25,000 objects to lend the Musée des Arts Décoratifs works linked to the life of the author and illustrating his era. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s flight logs and drawings, photographs, Aéropostale calendars and a planisphere signed by Lucien Boucher are among the incredible collection of items assembled for the occasion.
The centrepiece of this set of objects on loan, visitors to the exhibition will gaze in wonder at a table that belonged to the painter Bernard Lamotte. This unique and precious piece of furniture bears witness to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s time in New York between 1941 and 1943, when he wrote and published The Little Prince. The author engraved a sketch of his famous character on the table.
The friendship between Bernard Lamotte and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry dates back to the 1920s, when the two young men were students at the Beaux-Arts College. Bernard Lamotte left Paris in 1935 and set up his studio in the heart of Manhattan. A unique and effervescent place, his studio was a perfect illustration of Parisian bohemian chic, where painters, actors, writers and filmmakers liked to meet up. Jean Gabin, Marlene Dietrich, Salvador Dalí, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jean Renoir, Charlie Chaplin and many others engraved their names around the table and shared an ideal friendship.
À la rencontre du Petit Prince
In 1942, after having fought against the German air force during World War II, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took exile in the United States. His novels were very successful across the Atlantic. During a lunch with his publisher Curtice Hitchcock in New York, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry scribbled on the restaurant’s paper tablecloth. He sketched a dreamy little boy with messy hair. “A little man I have in my heart“, he confided to the curious editor, who suggested he make him the hero of a Christmas tale. At his home, Bevin House on Long Island, the writer set about this task over the summer. The tale was published in the United States in April 1943 in French and English. To bring The Little Prince to life, Saint-Exupéry drew on the sources of his own life: his childhood, his travels as an aviator for Aéropostale and Air France, and his close friends and family. He died on a mission on July 31st, 1944. His work continued its destiny in France where it was published in April 1946.