Lot 92A
  • 92A

Man Ray

70,000 - 100,000 USD
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  • Man Ray
  • gelatin silver
signed and dated in pencil on the image, hinged to a modern mount, framed, early 1930s; accompanied by a copy print of the image, signed, dated, and inscribed by Luciano Anselmino on the reverse (2)


Private Collection, New York


This luminous print, on double-weight paper with warm-grey tones, is in essentially excellent condition. Man Ray's considerable talent as a printer is evident throughout this image, from his assured handling of the print's subtly shifting tones to his expert control of the solarization process. In high raking light, very faint silvering—appropriate for a print of this age—is visible in the dark areas at the periphery. Upon close examination, some original retouching is visible throughout the image. Visible in high raking light and upon very close examination are the following: a few occasional, very minor surface scuffs and scratches that do not break the emulsion; and a very faint ½-inch crease to the right of the sitter's back. Near the lower edge of the image, there are 2 pin-prick-sized losses of emulsion. There is some general minor wear on the print's edges, and a small loss of emulsion at the center of the top edge. None of these issues is immediately apparent, nor do they diminish the fine appearance of this striking photograph. There is residue of dry-mounting tissue on the reverse of the print, indicating that it was once mounted. The inscription on the reverse of the copy print reads: 'Dichiaro che la foto a retro riprodotta: ''Nudo,'' solarizzazione nel 1936 è autentica di Man Ray - Torino 12 VII 74' ['I declare that the photograph reproduced on the back: ''Nude,'' solarization in 1936 is authentic of Man Ray - Torino July 12, 1974']
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

The photograph offered here is from a rare series of male nude studies by Man Ray, an artist more often associated with photographs of the female form.  Photographs of the male nude are scarce within the photographer's oeuvre.  Men—from Marcel Duchamp in Paris to Henry Miller in Los Angeles—typically appear in Man Ray's work as prominent sitters, fully clothed and confronting the lens with the force of their personalities and their fame.  The solarized male torso offered here carries another connotation: that of archetypal masculine power, suffused with a subtle sexuality.

The present image is one of a number of photographs of the same model in variant poses, almost always discreetly attired in briefs, but including one fully nude view.  Most often reproduced is a solarized frontal study from this series, of which there are a number of prints extant, including ones in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The New Vision: Photography between the World Wars, pl. 33); the collection of Sir Elton John (Chorus of Light, p. 108); the collection of Charles Cowles (101 Visions, cover illustration), and a private collection, North America.   A study of a muscular, flexing arm and shoulder, reproduced as the cover image for the Sotheby's October 2004 New York photographs auction catalogue (Sale 8018), is also likely from this group.

Man Ray scholar Steven Manford speculates that the photograph offered here may be unique, or one of very few examples extant; at the time of this writing, no other prints of the image have been located.  The photograph appears to have been cropped from a larger negative showing the sitter's entire body, including his head (cf. Ronny Van de Velde's Man Ray 1890 – 1976, pl. 141, a modern print from the full negative).   The present study shows Man Ray's usual deft choices in the editing and cropping of his own imagery: the torso here becomes monumental, with a universality and presence powerfully felt.  Christopher Phillips has observed that these solarized male nudes recall classical statuary in their expert delineation of form.  'It is as if this musculature,' Phillips writes, 'built and toned to sculptural perfection, had somehow outlined itself on the photographic plate' (The New Vision, p. 188).  

Manford points out that Man Ray dated the various extant prints from this series with years ranging from 1930 to 1936.  The well-known frontal study, for instance, is signed and dated '1930' on the Metropolitan Museum of Art's print and '1933' on the print in the collection of Sir Elton John.  The present print is signed and dated '1936,' in what appears to be the hand of an older Man Ray.  It is likely that the series dates to no later than 1935, when the image of the muscular arm and shoulder appeared on the cover of an anthology of French nudes, Albert Menzel and Albert Roux's Formes Nues, published by Editions d'Art Graphique et Photographique in Paris.

The photograph offered here is accompanied by a copy print that has been inscribed with a statement of authentication, signed, and dated by Luciano Anselmino, a young Italian art dealer who represented Man Ray's work, beginning in the 1970s.   The date of the inscription, 1974, is the year in which Anselmino became Man Ray's primary agent.  Steven Manford writes,

'Although many championed the work of Man Ray late in the artist's career, the Italian dealers, chiefly Giorgio Marconi, Arturo Schwarz, and Luciano Anselmino, were dedicated to producing new work and selling the old.  Anselmino was a young man devoted to Man Ray.  His gallery, Il Fauno Galleria in Turin, enjoyed a special relationship with the artist.    In 1972, Anselmino published the portfolio First Steps, which reproduced Man Ray's New York-period photographs.  On 1 January 1974, Man Ray appointed Anselmino to exclusively represent him worldwide.  Anselmino began the catalogue of Man Ray's drawings and print editions, entitled Man Ray: Opera Grafica (Turin, 1973 – 1984).  This two-volume work would be completed by Giorgio Marconi and Studio Marconi, as Anselmino himself would die not long after Man Ray passed.' 
Sotheby's thanks Man Ray scholar Steven Manford for his contributions to this essay.