Triumph of the Egg, 1921
gelatin silver print
image: 9½ x 7 5/8in. (24.4 x 19.3cm.)
sheet: 10 x 8in. (25.5 x 20.4cm.)
The Estate of Edward Steichen

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Lot Essay

During Steichen's three-year retreat to his farm at Voulangis after the First World War, he spent much of his time exploring new ideas that were challenging contemporary avant-garde photographers. He picked up his camera, determined to master 'that charlatan, Light, and the innate cussedness of inanimate objects.'
Triumph of the Egg, a print from a small series of varying studies on the same theme, was Steichen's visual interpretation of Albert Einstein's new and revelatory theories of physics. Steichen chose to replace Einstein's symbols with objects -- in this instance an egg.
To Steichen's consternation, his sophisticated 'symbol-object' interpretations were met with bewilderment by friends. 'I began to realize that abstraction based on symbols was feasible only if the symbols were universal. Symbols that I invented as I went along would not be understood by anyone but myself', he wrote.
The passage of time has somewhat negated this pessimistic sentiment. Prints from this series are among the most highly prized of the Voulangis period and rarely appear at auction.

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