Sotheby's New York, 28 April 2004, Sale 7987, Lot 188
The meaning of this extraordinary photograph remains, at present, obscure. Melvill’s face is partially covered, possibly by stiff, folded paper. Is he mimicking the act of photographing? Was this originally intended as a study of hands? Was the vain Melvill attempting to hide his aging face? Or is this a sly reference to Melvill’s work with the censorship bureau of British intelligence during the War?
Another print of this image is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a gift of the photographer Carl Van Vechten in 1949; that print is inscribed on the reverse ‘Harry Melvill (friend of Oscar Wilde).’ At the time of this writing, two other prints are known: one sold at Sotheby’s Belgravia in 1978, originally from the collection of Richard Smart, a gift to him from Melvill; and one offered in Galerie Rudolf Kicken’s Katalog 6, possibly the Sotheby’s Belgravia print.
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