By the Artist's Hand: 10 Exceptional Vintage Prints

Launch Slideshow

Ahead of auctions at Sotheby's to coincide with Paris Photo 2017, we look at ten of the most important vintage prints from the Photographs and Important Collection of European Photographs sales taking place in Paris on 10 November. Besides being rare and highly collectable, these prints are unique in translating the ideas of the artists at the time they were photographed and printed. This is visible in the quality of the prints, their particular format, their early signatures and stamps. Click ahead to explore the highlights. 

Important Collection of European Photographs
10 November 2017 | Paris

10 November 2017 | Paris

By the Artist's Hand: 10 Exceptional Vintage Prints

  • Bernd & Hilla Becher, Cooling Towers Typology, 1963-1970.
    Estimate: €30,000—50,000.
    These three works from this typology are vintage works offered directly from Bernd and Hilla Becher to a close family member. The remarkable quality is visible in the rich greyscale and tonality of these prints. The frames themselves are ones that the artists used in their studio to try different combinations of images and the back of the frames still carry the numbers of these series.

  • Brassaï, L’entrée du Bal Tabarin, 1930-1932.
    Estimate: €15,000—20,000.
    A beautiful example of a vintage print by Brassaï in his period in Paris made before his famous book came out in 1933 entitled Paris de nuit. A similar print is held in the collection of the Centre George Pompidou in Paris.

  • © André Breton / ADAGP 2017
    André Breton, L’Ecriture Automatique, circa 1938.
    Estimate: €20,000—30,000.
    This self-portrait by Andre Breton is made from the original collage. It is to our knowledge a unique example of an early print of this image. 

  • Robert Capa, The Liberation, Champs Elysees, Paris, 26th August, 1944.
    Estimate: €10,000—15,000.
    Witnessing the important historical moment of the Liberation of Paris after the Second World War in 1944, this vintage print of a widely spread image by Robert Capa details its history on the reverse of the print with many different stamps, stickers and annotations.

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mexico, 1934.
    Estimate: €25,000—35,000.
    This is one of the earliest photographs known by Cartier-Bresson in Mexico. At the time it was used for the announcement of his exhibition with Manuel Alvarez Bravo in 1935. The thick and mat paper, the format and the early signature, makes this a stunning print.

  • Lee Friedlander, Madonna 1979-1980.
    Estimate: €20,000—30,000.
    These unique vintage prints are the exact ones given by Lee Friedlander to Playboy magazine in 1985. Madonna, an unknown dancer at the time she posed for the photographer, had her major breakthrough a few years after the photographs were taken when her first album Madonna became a global hit in 1983.

  • Masahisa Fukase, From Raven Series, 1982.
    Estimate: €15,000—20,000.
    This vintage print is part of the Ravens series made by Fukase between 1976 and 1982 during the most intense period of his life, following the divorce from his second wife. Vintage prints of Fukase from this period are very rare and are stunning examples of the poignant creativity of the photographer. The book from this series came out later in 1986 and was rediscovered this year in his first European retrospective at the photography festival in Arles.

  • Josef Koudelka, Gypsy, Kladno, Czechoslovakia, 1966.
    Estimate: €25,000—35,000.
    This very rare example of an early print by Koudelka was made before his book Gypsies on a paper that could be originally from eastern Europe (very different from the ones used later in France). The size is also slightly smaller and more intimate with an early signature on the back. The print has an extraordinary depth, as Koudelka first intended his work to be printed. 

  • Robert Mapplethorpe, Alistair Butler, Torso, 1980.
    Estimate: €30,000—60,000.
    Robert Mapplethorpe is best known for his striking black and white nudes and portraits as demonstrated in this abstracted exploration of the human form. This unique vintage print in large format is presented in the original artist's frame. It is signed by Mapplethorpe with several gallery labels on the back of the frame attesting its provenance.

  • Thomas Struth,58th Street/5th Ave. (Grand Army Plaza), New York, 1978.
    Estimate: €30,000—50,000.
    This exceptional early vintage print is part of the few known ones that Thomas Struth printed prior to the introduction of edition numbers to his work. He printed these around the time he was in New York in 1977.

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