Auctions | December 2, 2014

Marilyn Monroe Selfie Leads Swann Galleries Auction of Vernacular Imagery, Photobooks & Fine Photographs


New York—Swann Galleries continues to lead the auction market in the area of Vernacular Photography, with a second sale devoted to this material on December 11. The two-catalogue auction also offers Fine Photographs & Photobooks.

Swann’s first auction, The Vernacular Eye, held in April of this year, saw top prices for albums of cyanotypes, photographs of the Wright brothers and their early flight experiments and window displays for a men’s clothing store in Buffalo, New York.

The upcoming sale offers more nighttime photographs of the windows at Buffalo’s Kleinhans Department Store, 220 in all, from the 1930s (estimate: $6,000 to $9,000).

Nineteenth-century albums include an album of mug shots, titled  “Criminal Photographs No. 19. Thomas Cunningham, Sheriff, Stockton, Cal.,” which contains more than 600 criminals in the Folsom, San Quentin, Whittier and Nevada State Penitentiaries, 1880s-90s ($10,000 to $15,000); Album d'?tudes Poses by Jean-Baptiste Igout, with 39 composite studies of men, women and children in various poses, albumen prints, circa 1870s ($7,000 to $10,000); and, from the Photobooks portion of the sale, the scarce 1868 medical title, Clinique Photographique de l'Hôpital Saint-Louis, 49 mounted photographs depicting patients afflicted with syphilis, eczema and other skin diseases ($6,000 to $9,000).  

A group of 80 American tintypes containing occupationals, such as a fireman, salesman and baseball player as well as cigar aficionados and circus performers, 1860s-80s is also featured among 19th-century material ($7,000 to $10,000).

Equally fascinating is a set of five rare, real photo Third Reich postcards of modernist artworks in a Nazi exhibition of Degenerate Art held in Berlin, 1938 ($4,000 to $6,000) and a remarkable archive relating to Suffragettes Louise Hall and her life partner, Ethel Harte, with a total of 76 photographs taken while they were on their “Liberty Bell Tour,” 1915 ($7,00 to $10,000).

A singular vernacular image is a photo booth self-portrait of Norma Jeane Baker, soon-to-be Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, circa 1940, originally given to a family member, which shows the smiling teenager in a wide-brimmed straw hat and lipstick ($8,000 to $12,000).

Notable photobooks include first editions of Alvin Langdon Coburn’s London, with 20 elegant hand-pulled photogravures, London and New York, 1909 ($14,000 to $18,000); Dr. Enrico Imoda’s documentation of his investigation of a medium named Linda Gazzera, Fotografie di Fantasmi, with 48 tipped-in silver prints credited to G. Simoni of Rome, one of less than 24 known copies, Turin, 1912 ($7,000 to $10,000) and Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations, one of 400 numbered copies, 1963 ($7,000 to $10,000).


A stunning selection of fine-art images features a selection of 25 photographs from Berenice Abbott’s monumental Retrospective Portfolio, including iconic New York City landscapes, scientific studies and portraits, 1930-1960, printed 1982 ($30,000 to $40,000); Margaret Bourke-White’s powerfully ironic At the time of the flood, Louisville, Kentucky, silver print, from the Life Gallery of Photography edition, 1937, printed 1998 ($20,000 to $30,000); Paul Strand’s Photographs of Mexico, portfolio with 20 plates, 1932-33, printed 1940 ($12,000 to $18,000); Jerry N. Uelsmann Portfolio, containing 10 of Uelsmann's fantastical photographs, 1959-71, printed 1972 ($10,000 to $15,000) and Irving Penn’s Dorian Leigh and Ray Bolger, used for the cover of Vogue magazine in December 1946, signed and inscribed by Penn to Bolger ($12,000 to $18,000).

The auction will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 11 and continues after a lunch break at 2:30 p.m.

The photographs and books will be on public exhibition at Swann Galleries on Saturday, December 6, from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; Monday, December 8 through Wednesday, December 10, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and by appointment.

A two-volume illustrated catalogue with information on bidding by mail or fax, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to make advance arrangements to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact Daile Kaplan at (212) 254-4710, extension 21, or via e-mail at

Live online bidding is also available via

First image: Marilyn Monroe, photobooth selfie, circa 1940. Estimate: $8,000 to $12,000.

Second image: Margaret Bourke-White, At the time of the flood, Louisville, Kentucky, silver print, 1937, printed 1998. Estimate: $20,000 to $30,000.