Peter Beard - Photographs London Friday, October 25, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, 2003
    Private Collection, UK

  • Literature

    J. Bowermaster, The Adventures and MisAdventures of Peter Beard in Africa, Boston: Bulfinch, 1993, pp. 38-39 (variant)
    P. Beard, The End of the Game, Cologne: Taschen, 2008, wraparound cover (detail)
    Peter Beard, Cologne: Taschen, 2013, pl. 13 (variant)

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘But how can I speak of anything more wicked than men who raise hymns of praise to Heaven for those who, with greater zeal, have injured their country and the human race.’
    Leonardo da Vinci, The Prophecies, circa 1490

    756 elephants is a tour de force of Peter Beard’s unique compositions. The monumental photograph depicts the aerial view of the unfathomable mass migration of elephants that resulted from a catastrophic drought. At the time, Beard was working in Tsavo East National Park where he witnessed and recorded the tragic die-off of elephants – the animal most deeply ingrained within The End of the Game. Captured from the air in such quantity and density, the once majestic animals appear tiny in Beard’s remarkable yet haunting photograph. The massive herd seems to be moving in one direction, compelling the viewer to feel its intent and urgency.

    To the left of the composition is a collage of small photographs mainly featuring traditional and Western hunters who came to Africa in the early 20th century to hunt big game. The intrusive presence and activities of these early Western hunters triggered an ecological and social disharmony that eventually resulted in the mass extinction of game in Africa. To the right is an excerpt from Leonardo da Vinci’s Prophecies in Beard’s distinctive handwriting:

    All the animals languish, filling the air with lamentations. The woods fall in ruin. The mountains are torn open in order to carry away the metals, which are produced there. But how can I speak of anything more wicked than men who raise hymns of praise to Heaven for those who, with greater zeal, have injured their country and the human race (The Prophecies, circa 1490).

    756 elephants presents the quintessential Peter Beard – visual poet, alchemist, prophet – and epitomises his unique aesthetic and socially conscious approach. Once described as ‘Odysseus with a camera’, he is a visionary ahead of his time whose powerful work continues to resonate long after its creation.

    The exceptional work offered here has remained in the same collection since it was originally acquired in 2004 and is appearing at auction for the first time.



756 elephants in a “misery likes company” formation / destroyed social units from starvation / exceeding carrying capacity / over-population / + mismanagement / TSAVO / @ the Mkomazi border / for The End of the Game / last word from Paradise

Unique work, comprising gelatin silver print with ink, blood and affixed gelatin silver prints, executed later.
Sheet: 105 x 175 cm (41 3/8 x 68 7/8 in.)
Frame: 134 x 204 cm (52 3/4 x 80 3/8 in.)

Signed, dated and extensively annotated in ink on the recto.

This work is unique.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £212,500

Contact Specialist
Genevieve Janvrin
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe
Yuka Yamaji
Co-Head of Photographs, Europe

General Enquiries
+44 20 7318 4092


London Auction 25 October 2019