Setting a record for a photograph, Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres made $10.5m (£8m) at Christie’s New York.

Image: Christie’s

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It took more than 10 minutes to sell on May 14 as part of the sale titled The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs. The estimate was $5m-7m.

Rosalind Gersten Jacobs (1925-2019), an American fashion buyer and retail executive, was first introduced to Surrealism in 1954 by gallerist, patron and artist William Copley.

She and husband Melvin built relationships with key artists from the Dada and Surrealist movements and assembled a notable collection of their works.

Le Violon d’Ingres was first published in the Surrealist magazine Littérature in June 1924.

It shows Man Ray’s lover Kiki de Montparnasse in a pose made famous by Ingres’ The Valpinçon Bather (1808).

After the photograph was developed, Man Ray (1890- 1976) painted on the ‘f-holes’ of a violin and had the image rephotographed.

This unique 19 x 15in (48 x 37cm) gelatin silver print (other versions are in the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles) was acquired from the artist by the Jacobs in 1962.

Signed and dated in ink Man Ray 1924 and stamped in red ink ‘original’ on the reverse, it has a long exhibition history and has appeared in many reference books.

Darius Himes, Christie’s head of photographs, believes the image, sold for $12.4m once premium was added, is a worthy record holder.

“Long seen as an icon of 20th century art, and appearing on the market for the very first time in its history, Le Violon d’Ingres has now smashed all records for any photographic piece at auction as well as all Man Ray auction records in any medium. And why not?

“Man Ray, and this piece in particular, stands comfortably within the pantheon of other giants of 20th century art.”

The previous records for the photographic medium were set by contemporary works by artists such as Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman and Andreas Gursky.