Lot 6
  • 6

Lee Miller

70,000 - 100,000 USD
230,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Lee Miller
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 9 by 6¾ in. (23 by 17.4 cm.)
credit and title in pencil on the reverse, framed, Buhl Collection and Guggenheim Museum exhibition labels on the reverse, 1930


Julien Levy Gallery, New Yor

kPrivate Collection, Europe

Christie's New York, 18 October 1990, Sale 7132, Lot 353

G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Los Angeles

Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, 1995


New York, Guggenheim Museum, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection, June - September 2004, and 4 other international venues through 2007 (see Appendix 1)

London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Art of Lee Miller, September 2007 - January 2008, and traveling thereafter to:

Philadelphia Museum of Art, January - April 2008

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, July - September 2008

Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, October 2008 - January 2009

Palm Beach Photographic Centre, In Good Hands: Selected Works from the Buhl Collection, March 2011

Middletown, Delaware, Warner Gallery at St. Andrew's School, In Good Hands: Selected Works from the Buhl Collection, October - November 2011


Jennifer Blessing, Speaking with Hands: Photographs from The Buhl Collection (Guggenheim Foundation, 2004), pp. 32 and 233 (this print)

Mark Haworth-Booth, The Art of Lee Miller (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2007), pl. 96 (this print)

Ilene Susan Fort, Tere Arcq, and Terri Geis, In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2012), p. 188

Catalogue Note

Lee Miller’s image of a ballooned condom incorporates a Duchampian approach to its subject, recontextualizing the object and divorcing it from its prescribed purpose.  The image is at once sexually suggestive, with an erect finger serving as a surrogate for the male member, and disturbing; the fragile-looking bubble is penetrated, and perhaps about to be pierced, by the violating finger.  Yet the sly humor of equating a condom with a balloon, in danger of bursting, cannot be denied.

Lee Miller was the canniest of photographers, and one of several women who made the transition from muse to artist.  Condom was made during her affair with Man Ray, from whom she learned photography.  Miller was a quick study, and her early images demonstrate technical adeptness with the medium as well as an understanding of its creative possibilities.  Many of her images made around the time of Condom show a similarly Surreal take on the world around her.  Miller would shift her emphasis to reportage in the coming decade, photographing war-torn Europe for Vogue, but even in her most photorealistic images the shadow of Surrealism can be detected.        

This photograph was originally acquired from the pioneering gallerist Julien Levy.  Levy was an early supporter of Miller’s work and included it in a number of his exhibitions, culminating in a solo show in late 1932.  Levy had an affair with Miller during a trip to Paris in that year. 

This image was featured in the recent Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition, In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States, where it was represented by a posthumous print.