In this photograph, Man Ray transforms the naked body of a woman into a violin. The body is that of Alice Ernestine Prin, also known under the pseudonym of Kiki de Montparnasse. He first met the woman who would become his muse and companion for over five years through a Russian artist. Man Ray immortalized Kiki de Montparnasse in an image that became legendary, and which he kept in his personal archives until 1962.
Later this black and white photograph became part of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs’ art collection. An American fashion buyer, Rosalind met Man Ray through gallery owner William Copley and his wife Noma. This meeting not only marked the beginning of her collecting career, but also the beginning of her friendships with artists such as Marcel Duchamp, René Magritte, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning.
“The artists were mentors who not only inspired and guided my parents but also, essentially, were instrumental in curating the collection. The acquisition of nearly every piece has a unique and intimate story behind it,” Peggy Jacobs Bader, the daughter of the collecting couple, said in a statement. The Jacobs’ art collection will be auctioned off in a major sale that Christie’s is holding in May at Rockefeller Center in New York dedicated to the collection. In total the collection could fetch more than $20 million.
New records on the horizon?
“Le Violon d’Ingres” by Man Ray is, by itself, estimated to fetch between $5 and $7 million. This photograph could set a new record for the American photographer. The record currently stands at $3 million, following the sale of a first edition of “Black and White” in 2017 at Christie’s in Paris. If “Le Violon d’Ingres” exceeds its low estimate, it could also become the most expensive photographic work ever sold at auction. It would dethrone Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II,” which sold for $4.3 million in 2011 at Christie’s in New York. “As a photographic work, it is unprecedented in the marketplace. We are proud to handle it,” said Darius Himes, international head of photographs at Christie’s.
Man Ray has long been one of the most popular photographers among art collectors. His works often double or triple their estimates, despite some controversy. The proof is in the 188 lots that Christie’s offered at auction last year during the sale “Man Ray and the Surrealists. Lucien and Edmonde Treillard Collection.” The event was a success and brought in a total amount of 5.9 million euros thanks to the participation of 332 bidders from 23 countries. But the Man Ray Trust, responsible for overseeing the work of the Surrealist, claimed that the source of many of the lots was disputed and potentially coming from works stolen by Man Ray’s assistant. Allegations that Christie’s emphatically denied.