• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 7434

    Photographs

    13 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 4

    EDWARD STEICHEN (1879-1973)

    Wind Fire -- Thérèse Duncan on the Acropolis, 1921

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    EDWARD STEICHEN (1879-1973)
    Wind Fire -- Thérèse Duncan on the Acropolis, 1921
    gelatin silver contact print
    titled and annotated 'VF -- June 1923' by Grace Mayer1 (changed incorrectly to '1921'), credited, annotated with 'Collection of The Museum of Modern Art' information and variously numbered in staff's hands in pencil on verso
    9¾ x 7½in. (24.7 x 19cm.)


    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Steichen was on holiday in Venice in 1921 at the same time as the dancer Isadora Duncan who was on her way to Greece with her dance troupe. With the promise that Steichen would be able to make motion pictures of her dancing on the Acropolis, Isadora persuaded him to accompany her. While she managed to pose for a few photographs at the Parthenon, it was with her pupil and adopted daughter Thérèse that Steichen produced this startling and remarkable image:

    She was a living reincarnation of a Greek nymph. Once, while photographing the Parthenon, I lost sight of her, but I could hear her. When I asked where she was, she raised her arms in answer. I swung the camera around and photographed her arms against the background of the Erechtheum. And then we went out to a part of the Acropolis behind the Parthenon, and she posed on a rock, against the sky with her Greek garments. The wind pressed the garments tight to her body, and the ends were left flapping and fluttering. They actually crackled. This gave the effect of fire -- 'Wind Fire' (Steichen, A Life in Photography, np).

    1 Grace Mayer joined The Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1959 as Personal Assistant to Steichen. When he retired in 1961 and John Szarkowski was appointed Director the following year, Mayer was named Curator of Photography. From 1968 until her death in 1996, she devoted herself to the Edward Steichen Archive as its Curator.

    Special Notice

    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Provenance

    From the artist;
    to a private collection;
    acquired by present owner.


    Pre-Lot Text

    ANOTHER PROPERTY

    Goat girl caught in the brambles, deerfoot or fox-head, ankles and hair of feeders of the wind, let all the covering burn, let all stopping a naked plunger from plunging naked, let it all burn in this wind fire, let the fire have it in a fast crunch and a flash.

    CARL SANDBURG on first seeing this portrait


    Literature

    Vanity Fair, June 1923, p.55; Steichen the Photographer, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1961, p.43; A Life in Photography: Edward Steichen, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Allen & Co., 1963, pl.87; Steichen, Doubleday, 1963, p.87; Edward Steichen, Pacific Press Service, 1986, p.21; Steichen's Legacy: Photographs 1895-1973, Knopf, 2000, p.126, pl.193; Brandow & Ewing, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, FEP Editions/W.W. Norton & Co., 2007, p.121.