Christie's set a record price of $5 million for Man Ray's "Violon d'Engres" photograph.

Christie’s set a record price of $5 million for Man Ray’s “Violon d’Engres” photograph.

Artist Man Ray’s iconic surreal photograph, titled “Le Violon d’Ingres”, which shows a nude woman with f-shaped violin markings on her back, will go up for auction, with Christie’s setting a record asking price of $5 million.

The 1924 masterpiece, widely regarded as Man Ray’s most famous work, will be sold to the highest bidder in May, along with other works of art, photographs, decorations and posters, making up Rosalind Gersten Jacobs’s noteworthy Surrealist collection over the decades. and Melvin Jacobs, a wealthy Manhattan couple who both worked in fashion.

If Violon d’Engres is worth the asking price or more, it will be the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction. The current record is held by Andreas Gursky’s Rheine II, which sold at Christie’s for a mind-blowing $4.3 million in 2011.

Man Ray's iconic

Man Ray’s iconic “Violon d’Ingres” photo will go up for auction in May, with Christie’s setting an unprecedented asking price of $5 million. It depicts the beloved artist Kiki de Montparnasse.

Man Ray is pictured in his Paris apartment in 1970.  Ingres' Violin is considered his greatest masterpiece.

Man Ray is pictured in his Paris apartment in 1970. Ingres’ Violin is considered his greatest masterpiece.

The American visual artist Man Ray learned to photograph in the 1920s and created his most iconic work, Violon d’Engres, in Paris.

Man Ray was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and spent his youth in New York, turning down a scholarship to study architecture to devote himself to painting.

He first studied photography in order to reproduce his artwork, but in 1920 he began working as a portrait photographer to finance his work. In 1915, while at the Ridgefield artists’ colony in New Jersey, he met the French artist Marcel Duchamp, and together they attempted to found New York Dadaism.

His friendship with Duchamp led to Man Ray’s move to Paris in 1921, where, as a member of the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, he moved in the same circles as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí and created unforgettable photographs of many of his famous contemporaries.

After the outbreak of World War II, Man Ray left France for the United States and settled in Hollywood.

Returning to Paris in 1951, he made the city his home again until his death in 1976.

In 1962, he sold Violon d’Ingres to Rosalind Gersten Jacobs, Macy’s retail executive and fashion buyer, who, along with her husband, Saks Fifth Avenue executive Melvin Jacobs, befriended surrealist artists, including Marcel Duchamp. . , René Magritte, Max Ernst and acquired many of their important works.

In the black and white image, Man Ray’s lover and muse, Kiki de Montparnasse, has her bare back to the camera, her turbaned head turned slightly to the left.

As first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Man Ray’s paintings have previously sold at auction for $5.8 million, but none of his photographs have ever sold for more than $3.1 million.

Darius Himes, Head of International Photography at Christie’s, explained that “Le Violon d’Ingres” was created using a unique darkroom process.

The title of the photograph translates to “Ingres’ violin” and is a commonly used French idiom meaning “hobby”. It mentions the name of Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, a 19th-century artist who wanted to be famous for his violin playing rather than painting.

In the black and white image, Man Ray’s lover and muse, Kiki de Montparnasse, has her bare back to the camera, her turbaned head turned slightly to the left.

Two F-shaped violins are well placed in the middle of the model’s back, giving her body the appearance of a stringed instrument.

Himes said that while the photo was reproduced “innumerable times”, Man Ray kept the original until 1962, when it ended up in the Jacobs family’s collection.

“The scope and impact of this image, at once romantic, mysterious, picaresque and playful, captured the minds of everyone for almost 100 years,” Hymes said of the famous artwork. “As a photographic work, it is unparalleled in the market. We are proud to have made it through.”

Man Ray was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and spent his youth in New York, turning down a scholarship to study architecture to devote himself to painting.

He first studied photography in order to reproduce his artwork, but in 1920 he began working as a portrait photographer to finance his work. In 1915, while at the Ridgefield artists’ colony in New Jersey, he met the French artist Marcel Duchamp, and together they attempted to found New York Dadaism.

His friendship with Duchamp led to Man Ray’s move to Paris in 1921, where, as a member of the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, he moved in the same circles as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí and created unforgettable photographs of many of his famous contemporaries.

After the outbreak of World War II, Man Ray left France for the United States and settled in Hollywood.

Returning to Paris in 1951, he made the city his home again until his death in 1976.

In 1962, he sold Violon d’Ingres to Rosalind Gersten Jacobs, Macy’s retail executive and fashion buyer, who, along with her husband, Saks Fifth Avenue executive Melvin Jacobs, befriended surrealist artists, including Marcel Duchamp. . , René Magritte, Max Ernst and acquired many of their important works.

Retail manager Rosalind Gersten Jacobs (right) pictured with her daughter Peggy bought the photo from her friend Man Ray in 1962 to add to her surrealist collection.

Retail manager Rosalind Gersten Jacobs (right) pictured with her daughter Peggy bought the photo from her friend Man Ray in 1962 to add to her surrealist collection.

Gersten Jacobs and her husband were friends with many Surrealist and Dada artists.  From left to right: Max Ernst, M. Jean, Rosalind Gersten Jacobs, Juliette Man Ray (kneeling) and her husband Man Ray in the arms of Ernst's wife Dorothea Tanning.

Gersten Jacobs and her husband were friends with many Surrealist and Dada artists. From left to right: Max Ernst, M. Jean, Rosalind Gersten Jacobs, Juliette Man Ray (kneeling) and her husband Man Ray in the arms of Ernst’s wife Dorothea Tanning.

According to Christie’s, the collection’s highlights also include Via Selmins’ Mars, with an estimated asking price of $1.8 million, and Duchamp’s Feuille de vigne femelle, one of the artist’s “erotic objects” that Gersten Jacobs bought from Man Ray in Paris and returned home to New York.

Later, at a party at the Jacobs’ apartment, a guest mistook the sculpture for an ashtray. Rosalind called Duchamp to let him know, which amused the artist and he declared the work improved, according to Christie’s.

The current auction record for a photograph belongs to Andreas Gursky's Rheine II, which was sold by Christie's for $4.3 million in 2011.

The current auction record for a photograph belongs to Andreas Gursky’s Rheine II, which was sold by Christie’s for $4.3 million in 2011.

Melvin Jacobs died in 1993 and his wife died in 2019. The collection then passed to the couple’s daughter, Peggy Jacobs Bader.

“The acquisition of almost every item has a unique and personal story,” she said of her parents’ artistic treasures. “The joyful spirit of my parents’ relationship with the artists is reflected in the work they have accumulated. When browsing through the collection, one can intuitively sense my parents’ love of surrealism, their insightful eye for great art, their playfulness and sometimes mischief.”

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