Published: October 30, 2001
Swann Sells Priciest Lot Ever in Record $1.4 Million Auction
NEW YORK CITY – A week of Photographs auctions in New York began at Swann Galleries on October 2, where the top lot of the week, a nearly complete set of Edward S. Curtis’s magnum opus, “The North American Indian,” with magnificent photogravures printed on delicate Japanese tissue, sold for $607,500. It was the highest priced rdf_Description ever sold at Swann, and the $1.4 million sale total was also the highest for a Swann Photographs auction.
“This auction demonstrated that New York is clearly still the center of the photography market, and that great material will continue to perform strongly-even in uncertain times,” said Daile Kaplan, Vice President, and Director of Photographs at Swann Galleries.
Less than 30 sets of The North American Indian, a lavish publication issued between 1907 and 1930, were produced on tissue, and nearly all are in private or institutional collections. This set, acquired by well-known collector Christopher Cardozo, was sold by the Trustees of the Moore Memorial Library in Greene, N.Y. “The library hopes to complete a $3.5 million renovation and expansion by 2004, in honor of the library’s 100th birthday. Interestingly, in May 1977, Swann was the first auction house to offer a complete set of The North American Indian on Japanese tissue, which brought $55,000.
Among other rare and highly desirable works sold was Herbert Bayer’s modernist masterpiece, “View from Pont Transbordeur, Marseilles,” an apparently unique oversize silver print, 1928, brought $68,500. “Best known for his pioneering contributions as a graphic designer and typographer at the Bauhaus, Bayer was also recognized for his visionary environmental design projects in the United States. His work as a photographer, though integral to photographic history and aesthetics, is perhaps the least appreciated part of his oeuvre, simply because his camera images have rarely been seen,” said Kaplan.
Also of special note was an albumen print by famed Philadelphia artist Thomas Eakins depicting sculling champions Barney and John Biglin on the Schuykill River, circa 1871. The study for Eakins’s iconic painting, “The Biglin Brothers Turning the Stake,” realized $51,750.
Among documentary highlights were a handsome sixth-plate daguerreotype of a dignified Native-American man in Euro-American dress, wearing a peace medallion on his breast, late 1840s, that sold for $7,475; an album entitled “Greece, the Holy Land, & Lebanon, Beersheba to Dan,” with 69 albumen prints by Frank Mason Good, 1880s, $9,200; Walter H. Lucas’s photographic chronicle of the native people in the Marshall, Caroline, and Ocean Islands, New Hebrides, and North Queensland, printing-out paper prints, 1890s, $7,475.
Also, a group of 11 albums containing more than 500 photographs of life on Indian reservations, printing-out paper prints, 1900s-10s brought $11,500; and an album of Irving Underhill’s architectural views of New York City’s landmark buildings and residences, including three three-part panoramas and approximately 75 medium-format photographs, silver prints, 1900s-20s sold for $25,300.
Significant modern images included Paul Strand’s Wall Street, platinum/palladium print, 1915, printed 1976-77, selling for $9,775, and the first edition of his Mexican Portfolio, I. Photographs of Mexico, with 18 (of 20) varnished photogravures, N.Y., 1940, $10,925.
Frantisek Drtikol’s Female nude with skull, a unique bromoil print, 1921, which originally belonged to Czech avant-garde designer Ladislav Sutnar, fetched $7,475; Imogen Cunningham’s “Two Callas,” a silver print, 1929, printed before 1977, signed on the mount, $9,775; and Margaret Bourke-White’s Industrial study, warm-toned silver print, circa 1930, that fetched $8,050.
Doris Ulmann’s Roll, Jordan, Roll, with text by Julia Peterkin, and 90 hand-pulled photogravures after Ulmann’s photographs, one of 350 signed, New York, 1933, a classic of Photographic Literature, sold for $17,250.
Portfolios issued with original photographs included Roman Vishniac’s “The Vanished World,” with 12 selenium-toned silver prints of Jewish life in eastern Europe and Russia, one of 25, N.Y., 1977, bringing $25,300; and Eudora Welty, 20 Photographs, silver prints from her 1930s-40s negatives, with a signed presentation booklet, Palaemon Press Limited; Mississippi, 1980, selling for $11,500.
Finally, among contemporary works, Luis Gonzales Palma’s “La Muerte Reyna” [Death Regnant], liquid silver emulsion on wood with metal, signed, housed in a Plexiglas(r) shadowbox, 1989, brought $6,900.
All prices quoted include buyer’s premium.
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