'MEXICO CITY' (MAGUEY AND LAUNDRY)
mounted, signed, titled, dated, and annotated in pencil on the reverse, 1941 (Helen Levitt: Mexico City, p. 93)
6⅜ by 9⅜ in. (16.2 by 23.8 cm.)
This early print, with a matte surface and on a buff mount, is in generally excellent condition. At the upper center is a small area of soiling, as well as a tiny soft impression that does not break the emulsion. There is faint graphite offsetting along the extreme right edge, likely from a previous mat.
The edges of the front and reverse of the mount are faintly age-darkened. The upper left and lower right mount corners are creased, and there is a small tear at the lower right corner. The reverse is annotated 'no neg' in pencil.
When examined under ultraviolet light, this print 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.
Acquired from the photographer, circa 1985
Helen Levitt traveled to Mexico City in 1941. The photographs taken there formed her first major body of work outside of New York. She traveled with a Leica, the camera which Henri Cartier-Bresson had popularized and himself used during visits to Mexico City. The photograph offered here, taken far from tourist attractions, was one of many that provided her American audience with an intimate view of contemporary Mexican daily life.
Levitt discovered magueys in the outskirts of Tacuba, a section of northwest Mexico City. The meat and juice of a maguey, a type of agave common to central Mexico, can be extracted for a variety of purposes, such as traditional medicine, soap, food, needles, nets, and alcohol. Here, Levitt documented laundry being sun-dried, draped across the plant’s spiny leaves. Photographers Manuel Álvarez Bravo and Edward Weston also made stylized images of the maguey, but only Levitt’s image transcends documentary and transforms the arid landscape into a nearly surreal tableau.