Man Ray surrealist masterpiece sets new photo auction record

New collection for auction at Christie's sets record with most expensive singular image by Man Ray
Le Violon d’Ingres by Man Ray (Image credit: Man Ray / CHRISTIE'S IMAGES LTD. 2022)

Breaking news 14 May 2022: 
Man Ray’s surrealist portrait Le Violon d’Ingres sells for record breaking AU$19.9 million (US$12.4 million at auction) at the weekend - double the estimate set by auctioneers Christies.

Original story: Auction house Christies is putting up a selection of photos that includes an iconic portrait by surrealist artist Man Ray, that could set a new record for the price of a single picture. The image Le Violon d’Ingres, has already set a new record by having an estimated sale price of $5,000,000 – $7,000,000 (approximately £3.6m-5.1m)

The 100-year-old image is part of a collection titled The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs & Melvin Jacobs, a selection of fine art photography offered in a live sale at the Rockefeller Center in May 2022.

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The current record for a singular photo sold at auction is held by Andreas Gursky’s Rheine II, which was sold by Christie's for $4.3 million back in 2011. 

The original intricate piece by Man Ray has been owned by the Jacobs from 1962 until the present day, now being sold along with the surrealist collection by their daughter Peggy Jacobs Bader, and is likely to surpass the record as it stands for the most expensive singular image sold at auction. 

Christie’s International Head of Photographs, Darius Himes, shared that "Le Violon d’Ingres 1924, by Man Ray of his lover Kiki de Montparnasse, is inarguably one of the most iconic works of the 20th century. 

"This beguiling Surrealist image is the result of a unique and hand-manipulated darkroom process... The reach and influence of the image, at once romantic, mysterious, roguish, and playful, has captured the minds of all for nearly 100 years. As a photographic work, it is unprecedented in the marketplace. We are proud to handle it”.

Man Ray in October 1963 (Image credit: Joseph McKeown/Getty Images)

Rosalind Gersten Jacobs (b.1925 - 2019) had a lifelong journey of collecting and was first introduced to surrealism in 1954 by artist William Copley, as well as his wife Noma Copley, through whom she met the visual artist Man Ray. Melvin Jacobs (d.1993) worked as a merchandise executive at Bloomingdale's when he met and married Rosalind in 1957. Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs continued to collect surrealist art well into the 70s and ‘80s, adding works by younger artists they resonated with.

The two fashion retailers and their daughter Peggy maintained close friendships throughout their lives with artists whose works they valued, as extensions of those relationships, with Rosalind supposedly spending Man Ray's final moments reading to him at his bedside in Paris before his death in 1976. Though, it has been noted that they were also able to assemble their unique collection due in part to their privileged position within the international art community.

Subsequent works from the collection owned by the Jacobs' are to be sold in a dedicated online sale, spanning surrealist photography, paintings, sculptures, jewellery and more. The special collection comprises a diverse breadth of art curated by both European and American Surrealist artists, the Jacobs also acquired six exquisite works by Belgian artist René Magritte (1898–1967).

One of Magritte's works, Eloge de la dialectique, was given as a birthday present to Rosalind by William and Noma Copley, which became the starting point of the Jacobs' collection. The Copley's also gifted a majestic oil painting L’autre son de cloche by Magritte several years later to the Jacobs as a wedding gift, that is estimated to be worth a staggering $4,000,000 – $7,000,000.

Marc Porter, Chairman at Christie’s Americas, shares that: “It is a true pleasure for Christie’s to present the celebrated collection of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs & Melvin Jacobs during our New York marquee week this spring...The outstanding pieces come together harmoniously in this unmatched collection, standing as a testament to the Jacobs’ superb taste and artistic sensibilities, beautifully reflecting the depth and meaning of the friendships they developed with Man Ray, Duchamp, Copley, and many more of the most important artists of the 20th century.”

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Beth Nicholls
Staff Writer

A staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has an extensive background in various elements of technology with five years of experience working as a tester and sales assistant for CeX. After completing a degree in Music Journalism, followed by obtaining a Master's degree in Photography awarded by the University of Brighton, she spends her time outside of DCW as a freelance photographer specialising in live music events and band press shots under the alias 'bethshootsbands'.