This May, Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres (1924), a famed photograph of a nude woman’s back that’s overlaid with a violin’s f-holes, is headed to auction, where it is expected to fetch between $5 million and $7 million. If it does sell for within that range, it will become the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction.
This print of the iconic Man Ray photograph, which depicts his muse Kiki de Montparnasse, is a rare one in that it is considered an original photographic copy. It was made around the time its corresponding negative was first produced, making it valuable in the eyes of photography experts.
The current record for a photograph by Man Ray was set in 2017, when an original edition of Noire et Blanche (1926) sold for $3 million during a Christie’s sale in Paris. The current auction record for a photograph is held by Andreas Gursky, whose 1999 landscape Rhein II sold at Christie’s in 2011 for $4.3 million.
“As a photographic work, it is unprecedented in the marketplace,” said Darius Himes, Christie’s international photographs specialist in a statement. “We are proud to handle it.”
The photograph is the top lot to be offered from the holdings of New York collectors Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs, fashion retailers who had deep ties to Surrealist circles. The Jacobs bought Le Violon d’Ingres directly from Man Ray in 1962, and have held on to it after since. The work will be offered in a live single-owner sale dedicated to the Jacobs’ Surrealist art collection at Christie’s in New York.
Rosalind, a longtime Macy’s executive, died in 2019 at the age of 94. The couple’s daughter and the executor of their estate, Peggy Jacobs Bader, said in a statement that the works being sold reflect her parents’ “playfulness and, at times, their mischievousness.”
Highlights from the collection, which include works by Vija Celmins, René Magritte, and William N. Copley, will go on tour to London, Paris, and Hong Kong before returning to their final location in New York, where they will be on view at Christie’s Rockefeller center space before being auctioned in May.
Man Ray works have performed well at auction as of late, even amid controversy over their sales. In 2021, a trove of more than 200 objects by Man Ray and others artists in his circle was sold from the estate of his late assistant, Lucien Triellard. Held at Christie’s in Paris, the sale made a total of $7.1 million, despite claims from the Man Ray Trust that the items in the sale were obtained illegally—allegations that the auction house denied.