Man Ray's iconic 'Violin d'Engres' sold at auction for €120,000

By Tessa Nolan

Man Ray’s iconic image captured in his immortal photograph “Violin d’Engres” continues to fascinate art lovers and collectors alike. This iconic work, depicting Man Ray next to the enigmatic Kiki de Montparnasse, adorned with violin-like resonator holes painted on her back, is a hallmark of the Surrealist movement.

Recently, during a lively auction of 200 works by the prolific artist in Paris, one of three reproductions of “Violin d’Engra” from 1970 hit the auction block. The artist-led print, created thanks to the collection of a close friend of Man Ray, exceeded all expectations, selling for an impressive €120,000, double the original estimate.

The significance of this sale goes beyond monetary value: it delves into the rich canvas of Man Ray’s creative genius. The auction featured many of his works, including photography, painting, sculpture and more, providing a comprehensive exploration of his multifaceted oeuvre.

Elodie Morel-Bazen, head of European photography at Christie’s auction house, expressed admiration for the breadth of the collection, emphasizing that it reflects Man Ray’s artistic evolution in an unprecedented way. She noted that there are no other collections that provide such a comprehensive view of the artist’s journey, making this auction a unique opportunity for enthusiasts and scholars alike.

Of particular note is the evolution of the Violin d’Engres over the years. Morel-Bazen emphasized the peculiarity of the 1970 print, created in a technique different from the original 1924 version, but which has retained its status as one of the world’s most iconic images.

Behind the scenes of this remarkable auction is Marion Meyer, President of the Man Ray International Association, whose close association with the artist adds authenticity and depth to the collection. Meyer’s personal relationship with Man Ray, developed during their meetings in Paris in the 1960s, provides a unique perspective on the artist’s life and work.

Reflecting on her motivation for assembling the collection, Meyer expressed her appreciation for Man Ray’s lesser-known works beyond photography. While his photographs have been widely recognized, it has nurtured a deep affection for his paintings, objects and drawings, highlighting the breadth of his creative output.

Man Ray’s journey from his American modernist roots to his eventual immersion in the vibrant artistic environment of Paris epitomizes a trajectory marked by innovation and experimentation. Born Emmanuel Radnitsky in Philadelphia, he traveled across continents and artistic disciplines, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of 20th century art.

When the gavel fell at auction, marking the culmination of an important event in the art world, Man Ray’s legacy survived. His iconic images continue to inspire, transcending the boundaries of time and convention, inviting viewers to immerse themselves in the mysterious realm of surrealism and artistic expression.

In the annals of art history, Man Ray’s Violin stands as a testament to the power of imagination and the enduring appeal of creativity. His journey from creation to auction confirms his status as a cultural benchmark perpetuating the legacy of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.