Lot 2
  • 2

Lee Miller

150,000 - 250,000 USD
377,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Lee Miller
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 8 7/8  by 6 3/4  in. (22.5 by 17.3 cm.)
mounted on heavy paper, signed in pencil on the mount, the photographer’s ’12, rue Victor Considérant, Paris XIVe’ studio stamp on the reverse, 1931


Collection of Maurice Verneuil, Paris

To his descendants

Phillips New York, The Verneuil Collection: Photographs from Paris, 1928-1935, 6 April 1998, Sale 781, Lot 57


David Travis, Photographs from the Julien Levy Collection, Starting with Atget (Art Institute of Chicago, 1976), p. 18, pl. 84

Rosalind Kraus and Jane Livingston, L’Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism (Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), p. 222, fig. 206

Jane Livingston, Lee Miller, Photographer (New York, 1989), pl. 29

Christian Bouqueret, Des Années Folles aux Années Noires: La Nouvelle Vision Photographique en France, 1920-1940 (Paris, 1997), p. 99

Mark Haworth-Booth, The Art of Lee Miller (Yale University Press, 2007), pl. 49

Catalogue Note

This photograph comes originally from the collection of the designer, artist, and photographer Maurice Verneuil (1869-1942).  Verneuil’s small but choice collection of photographs, acquired in Paris in the late 1920s and 1930s, was sold in an historic auction in New York in 1998.  Comprised almost entirely of images made by photographers working at the cutting edge of the medium, the Verneuil Collection encapsulated a particularly exciting period in photography’s history. 

Trained at l’Ecole de Dessin et Beaux-Arts, Verneuil became a major proponent of Art Nouveau: his work in this style included illustration, wallpaper, ceramics design, posters, and furniture.  On a 1922 trip to Java and Cambodia, Verneuil documented the indigenous decorative arts and cultures with a camera.  Verneuil exhibited and published these photographs upon his return to Paris and became increasingly involved in the city’s active photo scene.  It was during this period that he began to collect the work of other photographers. 

With its precise composition and surprising luminosity, Untitled (Iron Work) incorporates Miller’s sophisticated sense of design and her ability to locate the Surreal in the real world.  It is a remarkably accomplished image for a photographer to have made so early in her career, from both an aesthetic and a technical point of view.  In Miller’s print, with its deep, charcoal-black ironwork and bright white sunlit wall, an architectural detail is transformed into a lyrical, abstract study of tonal values. 

Early prints of any of Miller’s photographs are scarce.  The present print is the only example of this image believed to have come to auction.  All of the above-listed literature reproduces the same print, the one owned by the Art Institute of Chicago.  That print was originally in the collection of pioneering gallerist Julien Levy, who gave Miller her first solo exhibition in 1932-33, and also included her work in Modern European Photography, Exhibition of Portrait Photography, and Exhibition of Anti-Graphic Photography