MAN RAY (1890–1976)
MAN RAY (1890–1976)
MAN RAY (1890–1976)
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MAN RAY (1890–1976)
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MAN RAY (1890–1976)

Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

MAN RAY (1890–1976)
Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924
signed and dated in ink 'Man Ray 1924' (lower right); stamped in red ink 'ORIGINAL' (on the reverse of the flush mount)
unique gelatin silver print, flush-mounted on board
image/sheet/flush mount: 19 x 14 3⁄4 in. (48.5 x 37.5 cm.)
Acquired from the artist by the late owners, 1962.
A. Breton, Littérature, June 1924 (Breton version illustrated on the frontispiece).
A. Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination, New York, 1977, p. 255 (illustrated, pl. 415).
J.-H. Martin, Man Ray Photographs, New York, 1982, p. 16 (illustrated, pl. 4).
Man Ray, New York, 1995, p. 46 (illustrated, pl. 48).
R. Kicken, Man Ray, Munich, 1996 (illustrated, pl. 53).
A. Sayag and E. de l'Ecotais, ed., Man Ray: Photography and its Double, Corte Madera, 1998, p. 137 (illustrated).
K. Ware, Man Ray In Focus, exh. cat., The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 40 (illustrated, pl. 17).
E. de l'Ecotais, Man Ray, Cologne, 2000, p. 43 (illustrated).
M. Klein, Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention, exh. cat., The Jewish Museum, New York, 2009, p. 87 (illustrated, fig. 84).
W. Grossman and E. Sebline, ed., Man Ray: Human Equations, Ostfildern, 2015, p. 179 (illustrated, fig. 166).
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Man Ray: L'Oeuvre Photographique, May-June 1962.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage, March-June 1968.
New York, Cordier & Eckstrom, Man Ray: A Selection of Paintings, 1970.
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen and Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Man Ray, July 1971-June 1972.
London, Institute of Contemporary Art, Man Ray, April-June 1975.
The New York Cultural Center, Man Ray: Inventor/Painter/Poet, December 1974-August 1975.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Dada and New York, May-July 1979.
Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Man Ray, 1982.
Washington D.C., National Museum of American Art; Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; Houston, The Menil Collection and Philadelphia Museum of Art, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, December 1988-February 1989, p. 317 (illustrated, pl. 262).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, The Art of Photography, September-December 1989.
Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection, Americans in Paris: Man Ray, Gerald Murphy, Stuart Davis, Alexander Calder, April-August 1996.
New York, Andre Emmerich Gallery, Man Ray: An American Surrealist Vision, November-December 1997.
Miami, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sweet Dreams and Nightmares: Dada and Surrealism from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, March-May 2000 (illustrated on the cover and illustrated in color on the frontispiece).
New York, Zabriskie Gallery, Kiki of Montparnasse, April-May 2002.
New York, Pace/MacGill Gallery, The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, April-May 2009 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The Original Copy: Photography of Sculpture 1839 to Today, August-November 2010.

Lot Essay

Le Violin d’Ingres, 1924
Francis M. Nauman

Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924, is Man Ray’s best-known photographic image and, arguably, one of the most recognized images in 20th century art. Most French viewers who saw the work and read its amusing title would have understood its meaning immediately. A nude female figure wears a turban and, on her back, are painted two f-holes, causing the natural curves of her posterior to resemble those of a violin. The term violon d’Ingres translates literally as “Ingres’s violin,” a reference to the great 19th-century French artist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), who wanted the public to recognize not only his staggering talents as a painter, but also his proficiency at the violin. Today, his actual violin is on display next to his paintings in the Musée Ingres in Montauban, the town of his birth in southwestern France.1 Ingres was such a highly accomplished painter that few took his musical activities seriously, so his play of the violin was relegated to a mere pastime or hobby. The term stuck, so today, violon d’Ingres is a French idiomatic expression that refers to an activity in which one engages for sheer pleasure and relaxation: essentially, a hobby. The play on words must have harbored a special resonance for Man Ray, for in these years, he considered photography his violon d’Ingres, a medium he employed to record his own work and the activities of his friends, but not something he wanted to be associated exclusively with his artistic production. He used photography as he had all other media: as a means by which to express a given idea.
In this particular case, the idea Man Ray wanted to express involved combining two current passions: his romantic involvement with the model and muse Alice Prin—a.k.a. Kiki de Montparnasse—with his admiration for Ingres, whose work he had known since his student days in New York and, after moving to Paris in 1921, whose paintings he would have seen and admired in the Louvre. Indeed, when Kiki first disrobed for Man Ray in his studio, he recalled that her voluptuous nude physique reminded him of a painting by Ingres. “Kiki undressed behind a screen… and came out, modestly holding her hand in front of her, exactly like Ingres’s painting of La Source,” he recalled in his autobiography. “Her body would have inspired any academic painter.”2 For Le Violon d’Ingres, Man Ray asked Kiki to wrap a decoratively patterned shawl around her head in the fashion of a turban. He had her pose in profile, as well as with her back to the camera. The latter view proved more compelling, for she then resembled the nude in Ingres’s Baigneuse de Valpinçon, or the turban-clad, lute-playing odalisque facing away from the viewer in his equally masterful Turkish Bath. Both of these paintings hung in the Louvre, which would have made them familiar not only to Man Ray, but to anyone—Parisians and visitors alike—who visited the museum. By painting (or, as we shall see below, burning) imitation f-holes onto her back, Man Ray ingeniously fuses Ingres’s identity as a painter with the image of a violin—his hobby—while, at the same time, he connects his activities as a photographer with the accomplishments of a great artist in history (a significant point, since few at the time considered photography within the realm of the fine arts). Ironically, Man Ray would live long enough to see a print of his Le Violon d’Ingres hanging in the Louvre next to one of Ingres’s paintings that had inspired it. “It clearly made its point that photography can have an artistic validity equal to that of painting,” wrote his friend and biographer, Roland Penrose.3
The word “hobby” also brings to mind the word “hobbyhorse,” which translates into French as “dada.”4 It may have been that Man Ray wanted to pay homage to a movement in which he had himself participated, while, at the same time, creating an image that announced a new direction in the arts. Le Violon d’Ingres made its first public appearance in June 1924 as the frontispiece for the last issue of André Breton’s Littérature, a magazine that disseminated the ideas of Dada and marked the emergence of Surrealism.5 Perhaps fittingly, this photograph contains elements of both movements, as it possesses the dissociative aspects of an altered or rectified readymade by Marcel Duchamp (one of Man Ray’s closest friends and collaborators), while, at the same time, it contains literary and poetic qualities associated with the most imaginative and mysterious of Surrealist concepts. Man Ray may also have been implying that Kiki—his muse of the moment—was little more than a hedonistic diversion. “The title seems to suggest that while playing the violin was Ingres’s hobby,” wrote the photographic curator Kate Ware, “playing Kiki was a pastime of Man Ray’s.”6 Indeed, in Dutch paintings of the 17th century, idle musical instruments—particularly large violas da gamba—were understood as symbols of invitation, since it is implied that men (customarily the players of these instruments) were being invited into the scene to make music with the women who were present (as, for example, in several paintings by Vermeer). We can be fairly certain that Man Ray would have accepted a similar interpretation of his picture, for late in life he produced an edition that featured a reproduction of Le Violon d’Ingres over which were stretched actual violin strings, suggesting that the work itself could be literally played.7
Shortly after he arrived in Paris and while experimenting in the darkroom, Man Ray recognized the playfulness and flexibility of creating photograms—silhouettes of two- and three-dimensional objects cast directly onto photographic paper without the use of a negative. Like a photogram, his examples carried his own name since he used not only flat shapes (as had been customary to create these prints since the 19th century), but also three-dimensional objects that cast shadows and generated a sensation of depth. The resulting prints he called, appropriately, ‘rayographs’.
Le Violon d’Ingres was created by combining an image he made of Kiki with the f-holes which he made using his rayograph technique. Man Ray first cut f-holes into a sheet of paper or cardstock, one large enough to cover the surface of the light-sensitive paper that he planned to expose. We know that he must have used a paper stock that was sufficiently opaque so as to prevent the passage of light. After having placed a sheet of photographic paper beneath his enlarger, Man Ray would have laid the f-holes template over the top of the sheet and turned on the light, thereby burning the shape of both f-holes into the light-sensitive paper. A relatively lengthy exposure rendered the holes as pure black. After having removed the template, he then inserted the negative of Kiki into the negative-holder of his enlarger and made a second exposure on the same print. Once developed, the image of Kiki’s back magically fused with the f-holes that had already been light-burned into the photographic paper.
The print that Man Ray produced is commonly known today as The Jacobs Print, a reference to its first owners, the collectors Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs, who acquired it directly from Man Ray in 1962. “I remember you asking for the back of Kiki,” the artist wrote to Roz Jacobs, “which is really a combination of photo and rayograph—an original like the rayograph.”8 The resultant print—using the technique of the rayograph—achieved exactly the effect Man Ray desired, and so far as we know, he produced only one example of the work in this fashion. The print was shown for the first time in Man Ray’s show at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris in 1962, and it was from this exhibition that the Jacobses acquired the photograph (on the dating of this print, see a forensic report on the paper by Paul Messier).9
Le Violon d’Ingres was as arresting and memorable at the time of its creation as it has become today. In order to reproduce the work, Man Ray photographed the finished unique print using a 5-x-7-inch camera, thus making a copy negative (which is housed at the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). All subsequent prints, including the 1965 edition of 3 with hand-drawn lines resembling a guitar, the 1970 edition of 8 gelatin silver prints, and various subsequent color lithographs that appeared, all authorized by Man Ray, were made from this copy negative.
Le Violon d’Ingres has been reproduced so widely that, as a result, it has gone on to influence a host of contemporary artists, many of whom have found it both intriguing and inspirational. The American painter Kathleen Gilje, for example, best known for feminist interpretations of the old masters, replicated Ingres’s Baigneuse de Valpincon, but superimposed on the bather’s back the f-holes of Le Violon d’Ingres. Gilje did this in such a painstakingly realistic fashion that one could easily imagine that the f-holes were in Ingres’s original composition, long before Man Ray altered our impression of the image. By far the most widespread appropriation of Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres takes place in the tattoo parlor, for many women—especially young artists and musicians (both men and women)—have permanently affixed the f-holes of a violin onto their backs, paying homage to Man Ray’s ingenious visual pun. We can only imagine that the immense popularity of this image would have pleased Man Ray, for on a poster reproducing his Le Violon d’Ingres, he once wrote: “To create is divine / To reproduce is human.”10

1 It has recently been discovered that Ingres’s violin was three-quarter sized, which, when played by an adult, is customarily referred to in French as a violin de dame (see Ingres et les modernes, exh. cat., Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, 2009, no. 98). Much of the information provided in this entry derives from F.M. Naumann, “Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres,” The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, exh. cat., Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, 2009.
2 Man Ray, Self Portrait, London, 1963, p. 144.
3 R. Penrose, Man Ray, Boston, 1975, pp. 182-185. The exhibition was held in 1971, when Man Ray was 81 years old, but still active and living in Paris.
4 See R. Pincus-Witten, “Man Ray: The Homonymic Pun and American Vernacular,” Artforum 13, no. 8, April 1975, pp. 54-59.
5 Littérature, n.s. 13, June 1924. A special issue of the magazine identified as “Numéro démoralisant.”
6 K. Ware, ed., In Focus: Man Ray, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 40.
7 Of Vermeer’s paintings, see especially his The Music Lesson, circa 1662-1664 (The Royal Collection, Buckingham Palace), The Concert, circa 1664-1667 (formerly the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) and A Lady Seated at a Virginal, circa 1670-1675 (The National Gallery, London).
8 Letter from Man Ray to Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs, 3 September 1962. Papers of Roz Jacobs, New York.
9 It is listed in the accompanying catalogue—prepared by Jean Adhémar and Evelyne Pasquet—as no. 24 (Man Ray: L’Oeuvre Photographique, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, 1962, p. 9). On the dating of the Jacobs print, see P. Messier, “A Technical Analysis of Le Violon d ’Ingres,” The Long Arm of Coincidence: Selections from the Rosalind and Melvin Jacobs Collection, exh. cat., Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York, 2009.
10 Written by Man Ray on a poster to advertise an Italian exhibition of photography in 1973. The poster will be offered in The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs Online Sale.

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