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Man Ray (1890-1976)
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION Man Ray originally made this photograph for French Vogue. Upon first glance at the photograph as published in the May 1st, 1926 issue it appears to be entirely gratuitous. The photograph is alone on the page with the title, 'Visage de nacre et masque de ébène' (mother of pearl face and ebony mask) and only a brief poetic text about the evolution of the species being led by women. It is not an article about make up or hair styles, nor is it about African art or the photography of Man Ray. But that is precisely the point. Man Ray was a fashionable photographer. The magazine had already prepared their readers by publishing an article about him and his photograms two months earlier. The model, Man Ray's lover Kiki, with her pearly white complexion and oval face literally embodied the height of current style. Vogue and other fashion magazines of the time were full of illustrations of the long oval face, even women's clothing store mannequins, as witnessed in some of Eugène Atgets photographs, had the elongated face, not that different from the stylized faces in Modigliani's canvases. To mimic the shape and contrast its color, Man Ray used the West African Baoule mask. African sculpture was popular and inspirational to artists since at least the beginning of the century. By the mid-20s, interest in African art and culture had reached a broader public. This fascination reached a peak with the opening of the Exposition Coloniale de Paris in 1931 where most of the Bois de Vincennes was filled with pavilions devoted to the various colonies. Man Ray was confronted with the problem of juxtaposing the two faces. He tried at least two other versions which are less successful. More of Kiki's body is visible in both variants thus distracting from the essential form of the two heads. By placing Kiki's head prone on the table top it recalls some of the sculptural heads by Brancusi resting on a pedestal. Brancusi was a friend of Man Ray and even studied photography with him for a while. Recent scholarship by Wendy A. Grossman and Steven Manford account for approximately twenty-four prints, and suggest that nearly each one is unique. There is a great variety in cropping, showing more or less of Kiki's wrist, the table in front and, in some posthumous prints, the edge of the table at the left. Prints exist in a broad array of different paper surfaces; matte, glossy and textured. Some, apparently from a copy negative, show an enhanced highlight on the ear and cheek. Some prints are signed and dated in the negative and others are signed only on the mount, and yet others have only a credit stamp. The enduring fascination for this image from its making until the present account for the variety through its reinterpretation each time it was printed by Man Ray throughout his lifetime. The present lot is distinguished by Man Ray's full signature in the image with a stylus in the lower right corner. It is printed on an unusual warm-toned semi-gloss paper. There is a vertical strip of increased density the length of the right edge, apparently the result of fogging - accidental exposure - a common ocurrence in the darkroom. Because of the apparent age of the paper and the stamps on the back we can assume that it was printed sometime in the 1960s when Man Ray began to reprint negatives from his earlier career. As such, it is a splendid example of one of the most sought after images of the 20th century. This print was apparently a gift from Man Ray to Jean Petithory, owner of a bookstore and publisher in 1966 of Mannequins, a limited-edition portfolio of fifteen of Man Ray's photographs of altered mannequins featured in the Exposition Surréaliste in 1938. It was acquired by the present owner at auction in 1984.
Man Ray (1890-1976)

Noire et Blanche, 1926

Details
Man Ray (1890-1976)
Noire et Blanche, 1926
gelatin silver print, probably printed 1960s
signed in stylus (on the recto); credit stamps (on the verso)
6 7/8 x 8¼in. (17.5 x 21cm.)
Provenance
Jean Petithory, Paris;
Private Collection;
Sotheby's New York, May 8, 1984, Lot 217;
Present owner
Literature
'Visage de Nacre et Masque d'Ébène,' Vogue [Paris], vol. 7, no. 5 (May 1, 1926), p. 37; 'Man Ray: <>,' Variétés, vol. 1, no. 3, (July 15, 1928), 1st p. of plates after p. 154; Migennes, 'Les Photographies de Man Ray,' Art et Décoration, vol. 54, no. 5 (November 1928), pp. 154-160; Man Ray: Photographies 1920-1934, J. Thrall Soby/Random House, 1934, pl. 44; Foresta, et al, Perpetual Motif: The Art of Man Ray, National Museum of American Art, 1988, pl. 164, pp. 192-193; l'Écotais and Sayag, eds., Man Ray: La Photographie à L'Envers, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1998, p. 12; Koetzle, Photo Icons: Petite Histoire de la Photo, 1827-1926, Taschen, 2002, pp. 180-185; Grossman and Manford, 'Unmasking Man Ray's Noire et blanche,' American Art, vol. 20, no. 2, Summer 2006, pp. 134-147; Chadwick, 'Fetishizing Fashion/Fetishizing Culture,' Oxford Art Journal, vol. 18, no. 2, 1995, pp. 3-17; Castant, Noire et blanche de Man Ray, Editions Scala, 2003, entire 32 pp. book

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