Classic & Contemporary Photographs Bring $1.5M at Swann

Courtesy of Swann Auction Galleries

Edward S. Curtis, Prayer to the Stars, orotone plate, 1904. Sold for $21,250, a record for the image.

New York — Swann Galleries’ Thursday, October 17 sale of Classic & Contemporary Photographs featured a broad range of photographic material. “The sale cast a wide net with icons of popular culture, important historical images and classic masterpieces of fine art photography,” noted Daile Kaplan, the house’s Director of Photographs & Photobooks.

Edward S. Curtis’s portfolios and orotones attracted robust bidding. Highlights included Prayer to the Stars, orotone plate, 1904, that earned a record for the image $21,250; The North American Indian, Portfolio II, with 33 photogravures, 1908, which reached $27,500; and The North American Indian, Portfolio IX, 25 photogravures, 1913, which brought $13,750.  
   
Irving Penn’s sumptuous platinum-palladium print Cuzco Children, Peru, December, 1948, printed 1978, led the sale at $93,750. Also by among the top lots was Penn’s American Ballet Theatre, platinum-palladium print, 1947, 1968, which brought $18,750. Further fine art photography included Roy DeCarava’s Boy with Bowed Head, silver print, 1961, printed early 1970s, at $17,500.

Historical images included Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Gestapo informer recognized by a woman she had denounced, Dessau, Germany, ferrotyped silver print, 1945, printed 1947, which brought $42,500, a record for the image, and W. Eugene Smith’s Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, silver print, 1971-73, at $13,750. Dorothea Lange was present with San Francisco Waterfront (Demonstration), silver print, 1934 ($20,000), and Migrant Mother, silver print, 1936, printed circa 1965 ($18,750). Also of note was a collection of 54 silver prints on carte-postale paper depicting the architecture of Cuzco, Peru by Martin Chambi, which earned $15,000.

Colorful works by contemporary photographers featured John Divola’s Five Prints, 1983-86, a complete portfolio of dye-transfer prints that earned $20,000, and McLean, Virginia, December 4, 1978, dye transfer print, 1978, printed 1984, by Joel Sternfeld brought $17,500.

The popular vernacular section saw competitive bidding for albums and folios documenting life in Asia and the South Seas in the late nineteenth century ($6,250), the 1939 World’s Fair ($6,250), and press photographs including images from the Great Depression ($4,000), the Yalta and Tehran Conferences ($813), as well as the Vietnam War ($6,000). 

Swann Galleries is currently accepting consignments for the spring 2020 season. Visit swanngalleries.com or download the Swann Galleries App for more information