“Le Violon d’Ingres” photo was auctioned for $12.4 million

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The most expensive photograph ever to sell at auction became Man Ray’s famed “Le Violon d’Ingres,” Saturday, at Christie’s New York, for $12.4 million. The prior had been held by Andreas Gursky’s “Rhine II,” which was sold by Christie’s for $4.3 million in 2011. Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924 is arguably Man Ray’s best known work and one of the most recognized and celebrated artworks of the twentieth century,”, Christie’s presentation said. The American Man Ray, born Emmanuel Radnitzky, lived from 1890 to 1976. He was a key member of the Dada and Surrealism movements. He invented the technique known as photogram, also called Rayographs in reference to himself – a way to create images without a camera but to place objects directly onto photographic paper and exposing them to light.

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The black and white image “Le Violon d’Ingres,” dated 1924, transforms a woman’s naked body into a violin by overlaying the picture of her back with f-holes. It features Man Ray’s muse and then lover Alice Prin, nicknamed the Queen of Montparnasse and often known as Kiki de Montparnasse. Before the auction, Darius Himes, international head of photographs at Christie’s, had called the photo “one of the most iconic works of the 20th century.” “The reach and influence of the image, at once romantic, mysterious, roguish, and playful, has captured the minds of all for nearly 100 years,” he also said.