Collection of Vittorio Vidali (1900-1983)
By descent to his son Carlos Vidali
Sotheby’s New York, 8 May 1984, Sale 5176, Lot 354
This photograph comes originally from the estate of Tina Modotti. Weston sent several of his shell studies to Modotti in Mexico, who had been his lover and model for several years. The photographs elicited an extreme reaction from Modotti: ‘My God Edward, your last photography surely took my breath away! I feel speechless in front of them. What purity of vision. When I opened the package I couldn’t look at them very long, they stirred up all my innermost feelings so that I felt a physical pain. . . They contain both the innocence of natural things and the morbidity of a sophisticated, distorted mind. They make me think of lilies and of embryos. They are mystical and erotic’ (Daybooks II, p. 31).
The present photograph – printed on matte-surface paper and with Weston’s early, assured signature on the reverse – represents the ideal early state of the image. Later in the 1920s, Weston would make the transition to paper with a glossy surface. At the time of this writing, no other prints of this image have been located and it is not recorded in Conger. A slight variant composition was sold in these rooms on 10 October 2005 (Sale 8164, Lot 5).
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