Lot 135
  • 135

Jane Reece (1868-1961), Walter Frederick Seely (1886-1959), and Others

10,000 - 15,000 USD
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  • Jane Reece (1868-1961), Walter Frederick Seely (1886-1959), and Others
  • Gelatin silver prints and platinum print
a group of 5 photographs, including a platinum print by Jane Reece; Portrait in Kimono by Walter F. Seely; Portrait in Hat by Victoria studio, signed and dedicated by Modotti in ink in the image; Nude with Lace; and Closeup, 1918-20s (5)


Gift of Modotti's sister, Yolanda Modotti Magrini, circa 1980, to Mildred Constantine (1913 – 2008), the founder of Tina Modotti studies, and the only Modotti biographer to have met the photographer

By descent to the present owner, 2009



These prints:

Mildred Constantine, A Fragile Life (New York, 1983), pp. 22-23 and 31-32

Valentina Agostinis, Tina Modotti: Gli Anni Luminosi, pp. 15, 37, 39, 41, and 79

Chrstiane Barckhausen-Canale, Verdad y Leyenda de Tina Modotti, pp. 68 and 109


These prints are in generally good to very good condition. 'Tina Modotti' by Jane Reece, 1919 - This platinum print, on single-weight paper with a matte surface, is slightly rubbed at the edges. There is a small loss in the lower right corner. On the reverse, the paper is sufficiently thin that the image is visible from the front. It has been titled 'Tina Modotti' in green ink on the reverse. A print of this image is published in Soul Unbound: The Photographs of Jane Reece, pl. 36) Tina in Kimono by Walter Seely - This stunning warm-toned early print that is signed and dated in the negative, is on double-weight matte-surface paper. It is rubbed at the edges. The corners are bumped, and there is a small loss to the top paper ply at the upper left corner. When examined in raking light, slight silvering is evident at the periphery, as is a small indentation near the sitter's nose. This does not break the emulsion. The reverse is lightly soiled and has age-darkening at the periphery. It has been annotated '110240' (circled) in pencil and '16' in red crayon and pencil. Portrait in Hat by Victoria Studio, Los Angeles - This warm-toned print, on double-weight paper with a matte surface, has droplets of chemical staining in the upper right quadrant. The print has been trimmed, as the dedication in black ink is only partly visible ( 'amata inamm' and 'Tina'). The reverse bears a studio stamp, is soiled, and has been annotated '7' in pencil and 'pg 23' and '6' in red crayon. Tina in Lace - This warm-toned full-length portrait, on double-weight, matte-surface paper, is of a nearly nude Tina Modotti. There is light soiling on the front and back. The edges are rubbed, and there are sharp creases, tears, and losses at the top and bottom edges and corners. On the reverse, there are black paper remains where the print was removed from an album belonging to Modotti's sister Yolanda. The annotations '17' (circled), '33' (in red crayon) and '6' (circled and underlined, in pencil) are on the reverse. Closeup portrait, 1918 - This warm-toned print, on matte-surface paper, is in very good condition. There is a title and date in pencil and ink on the reverse. The edges are rubbed. The slightly soiled reverse is titled 'Tina Modotti' in an expansive hand in green ink and is dated and numbered '3' (circled) in pencil. The number '5' is in red crayon.
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

These photographs and those in the preceding lot come originally from the collection of  the late Mildred Constantine (1913 – 2008), scholar, curator, author, editor, and the founder of Tina Modotti studies.  Constantine met Modotti in 1941, and is the only Modotti biographer to have met the photographer.

As an art historian, Constantine had encountered Modotti's images for Mexican Folkways in the 1920s.  In the 1930s, Constantine herself had traveled to Mexico, first as a graduate student in Mexican colonial art and later as a member of the Committee Against War and Fascism.  From 1948 to 1970, Constantine worked at The Museum of Modern Art, where she championed art that fell outside the mainstream—graphic, product and package design, typography, and posters—and in doing so, raised their status.  In addition to exhibitions about industrial and graphic designers Vignelli, Lustig, and Yokoo, she wrote scholarly works about art nouveau and package design.  Constantine's career at MoMA overlapped with that of Rene d'Harnoncourt, director of the museum from 1949 to 1967, and a member of Modotti's artistic and social circle in Mexico in decades prior.

After leaving the museum, Constantine was an independent consultant and curator and in 1971, while searching for photographs by Modotti for a proposed exhibition of her work at MoMA, she discovered more about the photographer's life.  In 1975, Constantine published Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life, the first monograph about the photographer.  The prints offered here were gifts to Constantine from Tina Modotti's sister, Yolanda Modotti Magrini, and are from a family album.  All were used to illustrate the book, and several have subsequently appeared in other books about the photographer.