ON RED SQUARE RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS (NA KRASNOI PLOSHCHADI RITMICHESKAIA GIMNASTI)
large-format, signed and titled in Cyrillic in pencil and with the Rodchenko/Stepanova collection stamp on the reverse, tipped to a buff paper mount, signed, titled, and dated 'Parad 1 maia 1936, Moskva' in pencil on the mount, the Rodchenko/Stepanova collection stamp and a 'Société pour les relations culturelles entre l'URSS et l'étranger' exhibition label, with 'Rodtchenko - A la parade de la culture physique' in ink, on the reverse, framed, 1936
11½ by 19 in. (29.5 by 48.6 cm.)
This warm-toned large-format photograph is in generally excellent condition. There is tiny rust-colored deposit in the lower left quadrant, close to the center, and a few small glossy deposits near the lower right corner. There is minor edge and corner wear; there are small sharp creases at the lower corners which appear to break the emulsion.
There is minor soiling on the reverse. 'TR2969.84' is written in an unidentified hand in pencil, and '45' [circled] in ink, on the reverse.
The buff paper mount is unevenly age-darkened overall. The edges are worn, with occasional tears and losses. There are stray ink deposit in the upper right of the mount. '38' [circled] is written in pencil on the reverse.
When examined under ultraviolet light, this photograph does not appear to fluoresce.
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
Collection of the photographer and his wife, Varvara Stepanova
By descent to the photographer's daughter, Varvara Rodchenko
Private collection, 1960s
Christie's London, 29 October 1992, Sale 4832, Lot 126
Galerie Zur Stockeregg, Zurich
Alexandr Rodčenko, I Grandi Fotografi–serie argento (Milan, 1983), p. 47 (variant)
Alexander Lavrentiev, Alexander Rodchenko, Photography 1924-1954 (Cologne, 1995), p. 268
The All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (Vsesoiuznoe obshchestvo kul'turnykh sviazei s zagranitsei, or ‘VOKS’) was established in 1925. According to the formal constitution, ‘VOKS’ was intended ‘to cooperate in the establishment and development of scientific and cultural relations between institutions, public organizations and individual scientific and cultural workers in the USSR and those of other countries.’ The group sponsored lectures, tours, concerts, cultural exchanges, and sporting events through a network of so-called ‘friendship societies’ across Europe. Often disparaged in the international press as a Communist organ, VOKS nevertheless was an effective and influential force of cross-cultural communication.
In 1928, VOKS established a photographic arm and Rodchenko sat on the committee through 1935. He participated in several foreign exhibitions each year through 1941 and also is credited (with his wife Varvara Stepanova) with the design for the VOKS-published book Soviet Cinema in 1935. The label on the reverse of the present print’s mount indicates that it was included in a VOKS exhibition and, although the year or exhibition is unknown, it is likely it was between 1936 and 1941.
With his compulsory state-issued permit, Rodchenko began documenting gymnastic and military exercises in Red Square in 1935, utilizing unconventional cropping and vantage points to simultaneously redefine pictorial space and produce effective Socialist propaganda. For the present image, Rodchenko trained his Leica with 50mm Elmar lens on the repeated forms and patterns of young rhythmic gymnasts.