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Record-Breaking Sale of Man Ray's Iconic Photograph "Le Violon d'Ingres"

July, 03, 2023

Photogrphy. Le Violon d'Ingres

In a historic moment at Christie's New York auction dedicated to Surrealist art, Man Ray's renowned photograph "Le Violon d'Ingres" (1924) fetched an astounding $12.4 million, solidifying its position as the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction. The intense bidding war, which captivated the audience for nearly 10 minutes, ultimately led to this unprecedented sale.

Under the skilled guidance of auctioneer Adrien Meyer, two bidders engaged in a fierce battle over the vintage edition of this masterpiece. The contenders, Christie's New York and Paris-based photographs specialists Darius Himes and Elodie Morel-Bazin, respectively, battled it out over the phone. As the bids escalated to unforeseen heights, the tension in the room grew palpable. The room erupted in applause when the rare print was finally sold for an astonishing $10.5 million, surpassing the high estimate of $7 million, with Morel's bidder emerging as the triumphant buyer.

What sets this print apart is its rarity as an original photographic copy, created around the same time as the corresponding negative. This exceptional quality greatly enhances its value in the eyes of photography connoisseurs. The photograph itself portrays Man Ray's muse, Kiki de Montparnasse, in the form of a nude woman's back adorned with the elegant f-holes of a violin. It is a true embodiment of Ray's artistic vision.

The record-breaking sale of "Le Violon d'Ingres" shatters previous records by a significant margin. The previous highest auction price for a photograph was set in 2011 when Andreas Gursky's landscape masterpiece, "Rhein II" (1999), fetched $4.3 million at Christie's. Additionally, this sale surpasses Man Ray's previous auction record, achieved in 2017 when an original edition of "Noire et Blanche" (1926) sold for $3 million during a Christie's auction in Paris.

Darius Himes, Christie's international photographs specialist, expressed his awe and admiration for the work, calling it "unprecedented in the marketplace." Such recognition from an expert in the field further solidifies the significance and allure of "Le Violon d'Ingres."

The photograph was part of the esteemed collection belonging to Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs, prominent New York fashion retailers with deep connections to Surrealist circles. Acquired directly from Man Ray himself in 1962, "Le Violon d'Ingres" was the pinnacle of their collection. Sadly, Rosalind Gersten Jacobs, a respected Macy's executive, passed away in 2019 at the age of 94.

The sale of this extraordinary piece not only cements Man Ray's place in art history but also serves as a testament to the enduring allure of Surrealist art. The significant sum paid for "Le Violon d'Ingres" reflects the unwavering appreciation for the profound impact of Man Ray's artistic vision and his ability to transcend the boundaries of conventional photography. This landmark sale will undoubtedly be remembered as a milestone in the annals of art market history.


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