American artist Man Ray's famous 1924 photograph, Le Violon d'Ingres just sold for $12.4M at a Christie's New York auction dedicated to surrealist art. The sale makes the photo the most expensive ever to be sold at auction.

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Per ART News, the final hammer price followed 10 minutes of intense outbidding. Before the auction, the photo was estimated to sell for between $5-7M. The photo is treasured because it's an original photographic copy likely made around the same time as the photo negative.

The previous auction record holder was Andreas Gursky's 1999 landscape photo, Rhein II, while sold at Christie's in 2011 for $4.3M. Of note, an original edition of Man Ray's Noire et Blanche (1926) sold at a Christie's auction in Paris for $3M in 2017.

Man Ray, Le Violon d’Ingres, 1924

© Man Ray Trust ARS-ADAGP, courtesy of Christie's

Before the latest auction, Christie's international photographs specialist, Darius Himes, called Ray's Le Violon d'Ingres 'unprecedented in the marketplace.' The image came up for auction from the holdings of New York collectors Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs, fashion retailers who were heavily involved in surrealist art circles. They had purchased the photograph from Man Ray himself in 1962 and kept it in their collection since. Gersten Jacobs passed away in 2019 at 94 years old

To create the iconic photo, Man Ray first photographed model and performer, and his then romantic partner, Alice Ernestine Prin, also known as Kiki de Montparnasse. Man Ray then painted the f-holes onto the photographic print and then rephotographed the print. The image takes inspiration from French neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres' 1808 painting The Valpinçon Bather.