Lot 50
  • 50

Man Ray

350,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Man Ray
  • Vénus restaurée
  • inscribed Man Ray, titled, dated 1936-71 and inscribed E.A. on a metal plaque affixed to the base
  • readymade: plaster and rope assemblage on metal base
  • height (including base): 73.5cm.
  • 28 7/8 in.


Galleria Schwarz, Milan

Galleria Il Fauno (Luciano Anselmino), Turin (acquired from the above in 1974)

Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above circa 1974)

Acquired from the above by the present owner


Man Ray, Oggetti d'Affezione, Turin, 1970, the original object photographed by Man Ray illustrated pl. 38

Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, 60 ans de libertés, Paris, 1971, no. 73, another example illustrated

Janus, Man Ray, Milan, 1973, no. 41, another example illustrated

Roland Penrose, Man Ray, London, 1975, no. 124, another example illustrated p. 189

Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray, The Rigour of Imagination, London, 1977, no. 288, the original object photographed by Man Ray illustrated p. 171

Jean-Hubert Martin, Brigitte Hermann & Rosalind Krauss, Man Ray, Objets de mon affection, Paris, 1983, no. 58, edition catalogued p. 149; the original object photographed by Man Ray illustrated p. 62

Man Ray - Human Equations (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen & The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2015-16, the original object photographed by Man Ray and another example illustrated p. 165

Catalogue Note

Vénus restaurée is one of the most iconic of Man Ray’s surrealist creations: a magnificent and thought-provoking object which challenges and subverts preconceived notions of sexuality and beauty. The torso of a nude woman – modelled after the celebrated Medici Venus which dates from 1st century B.C. (fig. 1), now in the collection of the Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence – is here 'rectified' by the addition of a rope which twines suggestively around the body. It is thus imbued with undeniable connotations of eroticism and calls to mind the Marquis de Sade, whose writings deeply influenced the Surrealists. Endowed with novel and unexpected symbolism through the use of this material, the resulting implication of enslavement re-enforces the importance of the body as a sexual and fetishistic tool within Surrealist practice. Kirsten A. Hoving has analysed the impact of Man Ray’s exploration of Venus as a creative motif: ‘Venus is uprooted from her conventional cultural associations and cast adrift in a void where she is not myth, not ancient, not ideal, not whole, not symmetrical, not upright’ (K. A. Hoving, ‘Man Ray’s Disarming Venuses,’ in: History of Photography, vol. 29, no. 2, Summer 2005, p. 131).

The present work forms part of an edition of ten plasters made in 1971 by Arturo Schwarz, re-creating the original object - a hollow plaster cast - from 1936. Although this original was dismantled shortly after its execution and the plaster cast re-used by Man Ray for further artistic experimentation, it is immortalised in a powerful photograph by the artist (fig. 2). Man Ray was extensively involved in the re-creation of the object in 1971, and a detailed correspondence ensued between Man Ray and Schwarz on the subject of Vénus restaurée, with Man Ray suggesting at the beginning of the process: ‘A cast of the Venus de Medici torso – could be in painted plastic to look like marble’ (letter from Man Ray to Arturo Schwarz, Paris, 9th December 1970). Once the appropriate torsos had been found in an artist’s shop, Man Ray tied the rope around each example of the Vénus restaurée.

Venus has been celebrated as the apex of female beauty by poets and artists throughout the centuries, from Sandro Botticelli to Salvador Dalí. The legendary Vénus de Milo has entered the cultural consciousness as one of the most recognisable iterations of the Greco-Roman goddess, whose beauty and power remain undimmed despite the passing of millennia. Dalí created his own version of this venerated image entitled Vénus de Milo aux tiroirs (see lot 43), in which specially constructed drawers are inserted into the body and adorned with furry pom-poms, resulting in an intriguing re-assessment of this paragon of beauty as an object of amusement and arguably sexual play. 


Man Ray took as his starting point the type of plaster model that was a popular teaching tool used at art schools for centuries, exemplifying ideas of classical beauty and harmonious proportions. In the catalogue of the recent Man Ray exhibition held in Washington, D.C., Copenhagen and Jerusalem, Adina Kamien-Kazhdan wrote that ‘the plaster casts he utilized as figures reflect his subversion of academic forms for the purpose of creating alternative representations of the human body. These casts were fundamental to the teaching of art yet […] began to fall increasingly out of use in the academic community during the period up to World War I. By employing them in fragmented, reconfigured forms, Man Ray seemed to be using them in a deliberate manner to symbolize human flesh and perhaps to question the absolute knowledge suggested by these forms’ (A. Kamien-Kazhdan in Man Ray – Human Equations (exhibition catalogue), The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen & The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, 2015-16, pp. 161-162). Ultimately, this simple yet highly subversive object is a work of astonishing power and profundity.