Lot 16
  • 16

August Sander

350,000 - 500,000 USD
749,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • August Sander
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 8 3/4  by 5 3/4  in. (21 by 14.8 cm.)
the photographer’s ‘Köln-Lindenthal’ blindstamp on the image, mounted to paper, in the original vellum overmat, signed, dated, and annotated ‘Coln 1927’ in pencil and the number ‘23’ in ink on the overmat, the photographer’s oval ‘Aug. Sander, Köln-Lindenthal, Dürenstr. 201’ studio label and title in pencil on the reverse, 1927


Collection of André Jammes, Paris

Sotheby’s London, La Photographie: Collection Marie-Thérèse et André Jammes, 27 October 1999, Sale 9316, Lot 265


August Sander, Antlitz der Zeit (Munich, 1929), pl. 23

Christoph Schreier and Gerd Sander, August Sander: In Photography There Are No Unexplained Shadows (Cologne and London, 1996), p. 71

Gunther Sander, ed., August Sander: Citizens of the Twentieth Century (MIT Press, 1997), pl. 120

Gunther Sander, August Sander: Photographer Extraordinary (London, 1973), unpaginated

Susanne Lange, Alfred Döblin, and Manfred Heiting, August Sander 1876-1964 (Taschen, 1999), cover and p. 57

Mike Weaver, ed., The Art of Photography, 1839-1989 (Yale University Press, 1989), pl. 294

Catalogue Note

August Sander’s Handlanger is one of the photographer’s definitive images from his epic series, Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (Men of the Twentieth Century).  Sander also selected this image for publication in Antlitz der Zeit, his seminal 1929 book of portraits of the German people.  Although very much of-a-piece with the portraits in this book, Handlanger stands out for the intensity of its subject’s gaze and for Sander’s strongly symmetrical composition.  The photograph is an archetypal portrait of the working man, emanating capability and strength.   

Titled simply Handlanger (hod-carrier, or handyman), this image took its place in Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time) alongside portraits of farmers, bureaucrats, students, political radicals, artists, and others, most identified only by their occupation or type.   Sander’s purpose was to create a collective portrait of the German populace that was thoroughly objective, unsentimental, and unprejudiced.  His stated goal was nothing less than ‘. . . to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.’   Sander’s project and its inclusive scope, however, brought him to the attention of the German authorities. In 1934, the Reich Chamber of Arts ordered the destruction of the printing plates for Antlitz der Zeit and the seizure of all copies, effectively halting Sander’s picture-making. 

This photograph has the classic presentation for an early print by Sander: its paper mount, vellum overmat, penciled signature, and printed studio label are all signs of its early date.  The print, too, with its profusion of rich gray tones and minute detail, is wholly characteristic of Sander's prints from the 1920s.  Sander’s  home studio in Cologne was destroyed in a 1944 air raid, and surviving prints from the 1920s or 1930s are scarce.