When Baron de Meyer died in Los Angeles in 1946, his adopted son Ernest gathered his personal belongings into a large steamer trunk that had accompanied the photographer on his extensive travels around the world. The trunk was stored and forgotten until 1980, when its contents were sold at auction. This print was in that trunk and, as such, has a particular significance. By 1940 de Meyer owned so few of his own photographs that he wrote to Alfred Stieglitz asking to borrow a number for a forthcoming exhibition being held at the home of actor Edward G. Robinson. 'Like you -- I have in 1935 destroyed all that was superfluous, it seemed to me a burden -- all my photographic work especially -- what is left -- is due to fortunate incidents -- some of my work being elsewhere -- My object at present is to assemble a small collection of my life work.'
The caption helps situate this image at the cross-road of symbolist literature and art and the Photo-Secessionist aesthetic. According to John Szarkowski, 'These shadowy flowers may reflect the symbolism of Maurice Maeterlinck's theories on the inner forces of plant life, published in 1906, in his book The Intelligence of the Flowers. Maeterlinck's concept was of a primal struggle between the flower's rootedness and its thrust towards light, a drive towards freedom; an apt metaphor for de Meyer's own urge to free himself from the bourgeois reality through the fantasy and beauty of photographs.'
Another print of this image is in the Alfred Stieglitz Collection at The Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York.