Lot 15
  • 15

Hans Bellmer

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Hans Bellmer
  • la poupée (the doll)
large-format, mounted, matted, framed, exhibition labels from the Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf; the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; and the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, on the reverse, circa 1935


The photographer to Galerie André-François Petit, Paris

Private Collection

Acquired by the Quillan Company from the above, 1989


London, Hayward Gallery, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, January - March 1978

Washington, D. C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, L'Amour Fou: Photography & Surrealism, September - November 1985 

Madrid, Salon de Exposiciones, The Lost Bodies, Photography and Surrealists, November 1995 - January 1995; and traveling to Barcelona, Centre Cultural, January - April 1996

Greenwich, Connecticut, Bruce Museum, The Surrealist Vision: Europe and the Americas, January - April 1998

Düsseldorf, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Puppen Körper Automaten: Phantasmen der Moderne, July - October 1999

Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Dali, Picasso, and the Surrealist Vision, October - December 2005

Riehen/Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne, October 2006 - February 2007; and traveling to Wien, BA-CA Kunstforum, March - July 2007


This print:

Jill Quasha, The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs (New York, 1991), pl. 63

Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed (London, 1978, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 295

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Puppen Körper Automaten: Phantasmen der Moderne (Düsseldorf, 1999, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 442

Fondation Beyeler, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne (Riehen/Basel, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 123

BA-CA Kunstforum, Eros in der Kunst der Moderne (Wien, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 117

Other prints of this image:

Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston, L'Amour Fou: Photography & Surrealism (Washington, D. C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985, in conjunction with the exhibition), fig. 76

Nancy Hall-Duncan, Photographic Surrealism (Cleveland: The New Gallery of Contemporary Art, 1979, in conjunction with the exhibition), p. 33


This impressive large print has a very glossy, possibly ferrotyped, surface. Bellmer tended to make much smaller prints of his images, and this makes the present oversized print all the more surprising — the image's impact is only heightened by its large size. When it is examined in raking light, a series of three indentations can be seen above the center of the image—these do not break the emulsion. Also visible in raking light is a handling crease on the print's left side, as well as a faint texture on the print's surface transferred from the laid-paper top ply of its mount. There is a faint, short horizontal crease just above the unevenly trimmed right bottom edge, and a small nick in the center of the bottom edge. None of these issues is immediately apparent, and they do not detract from the fine appearance of this print. The print is mounted to thin, stiff board with a buff-colored laid-paper top ply.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Although never officially a part of the movement, Hans Bellmer is best known for his affiliation with Surrealism in the 1930s through his photographs of life-sized, surrealistic dolls.  In 1933, Bellmer created his first female puppet-doll, or puppe, posed in the image offered here.  Made of papier-mâché and plaster over wood and metal parts, this puppe could be assembled and re-assembled at Bellmer's whim.  He would photograph this doll, and a second, fleshier version with ball joints, obsessively over the coming years.  For the Surrealists, Bellmer's puppe was the perfect Surrealist object, with its combination of unreal and yet sexualized subject matter.  

Bellmer said of his dolls: 'I wish to construct a girl who will be both artificial, but complete in all anatomical possibilities, and capable of being able to physiologically alter the giddiness of her passions unto the point of creating an entirely new level of desires' (quoted in Masterpieces of Photography, p. 284).  The motivation behind Bellmer's constructs has been analyzed from every perspective, by sociologists, psychologists, and art historians alike: how Bellmer retreated from an abusive father into a fantasy world as a child; how a female automaton in a production of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman may have been the inspiration for his models.  The exhaustive interpretations of Bellmer's motives, however, pale in comparison to the photographs of the puppet-dolls themselves.  In Bellmer's erotic and sometimes sado-masochistic imaginings, they are alternately erotic and unsettling, provocative and shocking.  All are undeniably mesmerizing.

Large prints of Bellmer's photographs, such as the one offered here, are rare.   Most often encountered are small images from the photographer's limited-edition, octavo volumes, Die Puppe, published in Germany in 1934, and the French edition, La Poupée, from 1936.  The image offered here has been cropped from a vertical image showing a fuller view of the doll.  In the present photograph, Bellmer focuses on the doll's uncannily life-like face, glancing over a lingerie strap on her armless shoulder. 

The photograph offered here is believed to be one of only two large prints of this image extant, the other originally in the collection of Henri Parisot.