Lestnitsa (Steps), 1929

Lestnitsa (Steps), 1929
gelatin silver print
credited, titled and dated '1935' by Varvara Rodchenko, the photographer's daughter, in pencil and with 'Rodchenko/Stepanova' collection stamp (verso)
image/sheet: 15 x 22 1/2 in. (38.1 x 57.2 cm.)
Christie’s, London, May 6, 1993, lot 169;
The Collection of Swiss film director Thomas Koerfer, Sotheby's, New York, September 30, 2014, lot 127;
acquired from the above sale by the present owner.
Andréi B. Nakov, Rodtchenko, Photographe, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1977, n.p.
Sergei Morozov, Valerie Lloyd, Soviet Photography: An Age of Realism, New York, 1980, p. 81.
Alexandr Rodčhenko, Alexandr Rodčenko: I Grandi Fotografi–serie argento, Milan, 1983, p. 36.
Alexander Rodchenko, Alexander Rodchenko, Pantheon, New York, 1986, pl. 38.
Grigory Chudakov, 20 Soviet Photographers: 1917-1940, Fiolet & Draaijer Interphoto, Amsterdam, 1990, pl. 108.
Alexander Lavrentiev, Alexander Rodchenko: Photography 1924-1954, Cologne, 1995, pp. 150-51.
Magdalena Dabrowski, Leah Dickerman, and Peter Galassi, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998, pl. 247.
Marianne Karabelnik, Stripped Bare, The Body Revealed in Contemporary Art: Works from the Thomas Koerfer Collection London, 2004, p. 27.

Brought to you by

Rebecca Jones
Rebecca Jones

Lot Essay

The current lot, Steps, presents one of Alexander Rodchenko’s most celebrated images, capturing the artist’s genius in melding the austerity of formalism with a distinct humanist undertone. The diagonal lines that stretch across the composition thrust the viewers into the photographer’s intended sense of disorientation, injecting a sense of immediacy and freshness into the image and signaling a new reality. Indeed, the image was taken on the steps of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Savior in Moscow, a building that would soon be demolished in favor of constructing the Palace of the Soviets. However, the new reality to which Rodchenko alludes is not meant to be foreboding. In fact, despite the deeply modernist feel, the mother climbing up the stairs with child in her arms adds an immediate sense of relatability, and more so, affection, into an otherwise minimalist visual abstraction.

When the image was first published in 1929, it was entitled The Summer Day, in the magazine Dajesh. Six years later, the image was included in the ‘Exhibition of the Work of the Masters of Soviet Photography’ in Moscow. By then, the political climate was rapidly shifting toward Stalin’s authoritative regime, and Rodchenko, like many of his fellow artists, was accordingly losing favor. As such, the 1935 exhibition in which Steps was included granted the artist a much-needed sense of validation. Nearly one-century since the image was first taken, Steps continues to be regarded as one of Rodchenko’s masterpieces, infusing a seemingly documentarian work with conceptual complexity and a welcoming humanism.

More from Photographs

View All
View All