Lot 133
  • 133

MAN RAY | Minotaur

150,000 - 250,000 USD
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  • Man Ray
  • Minotaur
  • gelatin silver print
  • 5 7/8  by 9 1/4  in. (14.9 by 23.5 cm.)
dated and numbered '36' in pencil and with the photographer's '31 bis, Rue Campagne Première' studio stamp (Manford M6) and posthumous copyright stamp (Manford M30) on the reverse, 1933


Collection of the photographer By descent to Juliet Man Ray, the photographer's widow, 1976

Sotheby's London, Man Ray: Paintings, Objects, Photographs: Property from the Estate of Juliet Man Ray, the Man Ray Trust and the Family of Juliet Man Ray, 22-23 March 1995, Sale 5173, Lot 15


Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou/Musée National d’Art Moderne, Man Ray, December 1981 - May 1982 Washington, D. C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, L'Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism, September - November 1985

Geneva, Musée Rath, Regards sur Minotaure, la revue à tête de bête, October 1987 - January 1988, and traveling to Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, March - May 1988

Washington, D. C., The National Museum of American Art, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, December 1988 - February 1989; and traveling to Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Houston, The Menil Collection; and The Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 1990

Tokyo, The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Man Ray et ses Amis, July - August 1991; and traveling to Takamatsu, City Museum of Art; Tsukuba, Museum of Art, Ibaraki; Okayama, Prefectural Museum of Art; Akita, Senshu Museum of Art; Itami, City Museum of Art, through 1992

Greenwich, Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, The Surrealist Vision: Europe and the Americas, January - April 1998

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou/Musée National d’Art Moderne and the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Man Ray, La photographie à l'envers, April - June 1998

London, Tate Modern, Surrealism: Desire Unbound, September 2001 - January 2002, and travelling to New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, February - May 2002

Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Man Ray, February - April 2004

Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou/Musée National d’Art Moderne, Traces du Sacré, May - August 2008, and travelling to Munich, Haus der Kunst, September 2008 - January 2009


Minotaure, No. 7, June 1935, ill. table of contents This print:

Man Ray (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou/Musée National d’Art Moderne, 1981), no. 175, pp. 148-9

L'Amour Fou: Photography & Surrealism (Washington, D. C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1985), fig. 9, pp. 16-7

Dada and Surrealism (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1985), fig. 2, p. 45

Regards sur Minotaure (Geneva and Paris: Musée Rath and Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1987), no. 171, p. 203

Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray (Washington, D. C.: National Museum of American Art, 1988), fig. 199, p. 225

Man Ray et ses Amis (Tokyo: The Bunkamura Museum of Art, 1991), no. 4, p. 25

A Boatload of Madmen: Surrealism and the American Avant-Garde, 1920-1950 (New York, 1995), pl. 26

Man Ray, La photographie à l'envers (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou/Musée National d’Art Moderne, 1998), pp. 226-7

The Surrealist Vision: Europe and the Americas (Greenwich: Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, 1998), p. 22

Surrealism: Desire Unbound (Princeton, 2001), fig. 214, p. 218

Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention (New York: The Jewish Museum, 2009), p. 64


This rare, early print, on double-weight paper with rounded corners, is in generally very good condition. This photograph has a very glossy surface. As is visible in the catalogue illustration, there is a fine, sharp, linear crease extending from the upper edge to the lower edge. While this breaks the emulsion, its visual impact is minimal, bisecting the sitter's torso almost purposefully. When examined closely in high raking light, the following are visible: a 1/4-inch crescent-shaped crease that may break the emulsion in the lower left quadrant; faint superficial hairline scratches, possibly from processing; and scattered, very small spidery matte areas, possibly foxing. The impression from a numerical notation ('21') on the reverse is faintly visible in the upper right corner when the print is examined closely at an angle. On the reverse, there are small, faint abrasions from previous hinges in the lower corners.
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

Man Ray’s Minotaur exemplifies 1930s Surrealist photography.  This mythical monster – traditionally depicted with the head of a bull and the body of a man – personified both sexual vitality and raw savagery.  For the avant-garde of the period, the Minotaur also embodied the Dionysian impulse in artistic creation promoted by Friedrich Nietzsche.  Man Ray goes well beyond classic mythology in his interpretation of the Minotaur.  He fashions the bull’s head out of the shadowy contours of a woman’s body: her breasts act as eyes, the concavity of her stomach as mouth, and her raised arms as horns.  In Surrealist photography the human body was often subject to violent visual assault.  The eminent scholar Rosalind Krauss writes ‘of bodies decapitated by the projection of shadow; of bodies eaten away by either heat or light. Their often fetishistic, sexually charged displacements of familiar human forms were accompanied by an uncanny denaturalization of the spatial order in which they were situated’ (‘Corpus Delicti,’ October, Summer 1985, vol. 33, p. 44).  During the 1920s and 1930s, Man Ray experimented with imagery in which the sitter’s gender is intentionally ambiguous and, in some cases, the human body is wholly transformed into a sexually-charged object. His Minotaur shows the photographer’s proclivity for both themes, as does his 1929 masterwork Anatomies, in which Lee Miller’s naked shoulders and tilted back head morph into the shape of a phallus.

On the heels of his first major monograph, Man Ray Photographies 1920-1934, Man Ray selected the present photograph for inclusion in the progressive Surrealist journal Minotaure (fig. 1).  Filled with high quality reproductions and progressive editorial, Albert Skira’s Minotaure remains one of the most innovative and highly-regarded publications of the mid-20th Century.  Unlike earlier Surrealist publications such as André Breton’s La Révolution Surréaliste, Minotaure was intended to appeal to a socially privileged audience and was less politically influenced.  As Brassaï wrote, ‘with Minotaure, there was no longer a "radical break with the world" [as previously sought by Breton] but rather the great entrance of surrealist art and poetry into the world and even into the world of high society’ (Brassaï, Conversations with Picasso, p. 21).  Within its lavishly illustrated wrappers was a literary and fine art review focused on modern literature, contemporary art, experimental cinema, and architecture.  Published 10 years after the advent of Surrealism, the pages of Minotaure were filled with contributions from every major artist of the era, including Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, and André Masson; André Breton, Paul Éluard, and Georges Bataille served on its editorial board.

Along with Brassaï, Man Ray was the leading photographer to contribute to Minotaure, with his photographs appearing in nearly every issue of the magazine’s 6 years of existence from 1933-39.  Within Minotaure magazine, photography was not merely decorative illustration but rather was considered equal in importance to painting and sculpture.  Throughout its 13 issues, many of the most important Surrealist photographs of the period were published for the first time: ‘Erotique-Voilée’ and ‘Explosante-Fixe’ by Man Ray; ‘Sculptures involontaires’, ‘Paris de Nuit,’ and ‘Graffiti’ by Brassaï; ‘Le phénomène de l’extase’ by Salvador Dalì; and ‘Les Poupées’ by Hans Bellmer, to name but a few.  Man Ray’s Minotaur was the only photographic interpretation of the magazine’s subject. Attesting to its importance, in the 13 issues published Man Ray’s Minotaur was the only work of art to be illustrated on the title page and the only photograph that did not relate to an article.

At the time of this writing, no other print of this image has been located. While it is unknown whether the photograph offered here is the exact print made for reproduction in the 1935 issue of Minotaure, its physical attributes suggest this purpose.  The ‘31 bis, Rue Campagne Premire’ studio stamp on the reverse of the print was likely in use no later than the summer of 1935 when Man Ray moved to ‘8, rue du Val-de-Grace.’ Further, it is not known to have illustrated another publication of the period.  The origin of the hairline crease that bisects this photograph is unknown.  It is speculation to suggest that its central placement – nearly perfectly halving the body – might have been intentional to demonstrate how the image would appear illustrating a double-page spread.  This crease was present before the print left the photographer’s estate, as evidenced by the early reproductions of this object. 

The present photograph, now an icon of Surrealism, has been included in every major exhibition about Man Ray and illustrated in all significant monographs on the artist.