Lot 33
  • 33

Edward Weston

250,000 - 350,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Edward Weston
  • Photograph
platinum or palladium print, mounted along the top edge to tan stiff paper, signed, titled, and dated in pencil on the mount, 1921


Sotheby's New York, 7 October 1993, Sale 6468, Lot 256


Conger 69

Galerie Zur Stockeregg: Twenty Years, 1979-1999 (Zurich, 1999), pl. 5 (this print)

Beaumont Newhall, Supreme Instants: The Photography of Edward Weston (Boston, 1986), pl. 6

Manfred Heiting, ed., Edward Weston (Köln, 2004), p. 48


This early platinum or palladium print by Edward Weston is characteristically affixed to a large buff-colored paper mount, and is fully signed, titled, and dated by Weston, in his early style, in pencil in the lower portion of the mount. The print is warm-toned and has the matte surface typical of Weston's photographs from this period. In this print, Weston has carefully modulated the tones, which range from a deep, soft black to a creamy off-white. The majority of the image is rendered in the mid tones, which Weston uses with great skill to render the flesh tones of his subject. The print is in essentially excellent condition. When examined in raking light, a very faint scuff can be seen in the upper left quadrant. In the left portion if the subject's neck, two tiny white marks can be seen on the surface of the photograph --- whether these are very small accretions, or nicks in the surface, is difficult to determine. There are several very small spots in the lower portion of the image which are slightly darker than the surrounding areas. These may be due to original retouching. None of these issues is immediately apparent, nor do they undermine in any way the impressive appearance of this print. The mount is buff-colored heavy paper. There is a tideline along the entire length of the right edge of the mount -- this does not affect the print. The mount is generally age darkened, and there is a thumbtack hole in the center of the top and bottom edges, with some attendant rust deposits. At one time, this print was framed with a mat that had windows for the image, the title, and the signature.
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 among the earliest studies Edward Weston made of Tina Modotti, the woman whose face and figure would inspire some of Weston’s best work throughout the 1920s.  The photographer regarded the image as an important one at the time, including it in two early exhibitions: in Amsterdam in 1922, and at the Aztec Land Gallery in Mexico City in 1923.  The print offered here, originally sold in these rooms in 1993, is one of only three extant examples of this seminal picture of Modotti.   

Head of an Italian Girl is from a series of studies and portraits of Modotti that Weston began in Los Angeles in 1921, soon after their love affair began, and would continue in Mexico.  At the time this photograph was taken, each was married to someone else: Weston to the former Flora Chandler, the mother of his four children, and Modotti to the poet and textile designer, Roubaix de l’Abrie Richey.  Born in Italy, Modotti was a recent arrival in Los Angeles, where she worked variously as an actress in silent films and as a seamstress and clothing designer.  In the early 1920s, Weston made his living as a portrait photographer in Glendale, while pursuing his own creative work. The two fell in love shortly after they met, and Weston began photographing Modotti immediately.  In April 1921, Weston wrote of Modotti to his friend, the photographer Johan Hagemeyer:

‘Life has been very full for me—perhaps too full for my good—I not only have done some of the best things yet—but have also had an exquisite affair . . . the pictures I believe to be especially good are of one Tina de Richey—a lovely Italian girl’ (The Archive, January 1986, Number 22, ‘The Letters from Tina Modotti to Edward Weston,’ p. 10)

In the present image, the ecstatic expression on Modotti’s face provides some indication of the intensity of their new relationship. 

Amy Conger locates only two prints of this image, both in institutional collections: a palladium print originally owned by Johan Hagemeyer and now at the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; and a platinum print at the Baltimore Museum of Art.