Tina Modotti - Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection New York Thursday, April 4, 2019 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    From the photographer to Vittorio Vidali
    By descent to his son Carlos Vidali
    Sotheby’s, New York, 17 April 1991, lot 212
    Page Imageworks, San Francisco, as agent

  • Exhibited

    Tina Modotti: Photographs, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 16 September - 26 November 1995, and traveling to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through 1996
    Tina Modotti & Edward Weston: The Mexico Years, Barbican Centre, London, 29 April - 1 August 2004
    Mexico as Muse: Tina Modotti and Edward Weston, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2 September 2006 - 2 January 2007
    Collected, Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, 2 May 2016 - 31 January 2017

  • Literature

    Lowe, Tina Modotti: Photographs, pl. 22 (this print)
    Lowe, Tina Modotti & Edward Weston: The Mexico Years, pl. 26 (this print)
    Pier 24 Photography, Collected, p. 112 (this print)
    Constantine, Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life, p. 118
    Schultz, et al., Tina Modotti: Photographien & Dokumente, p. 36
    Hooks, Tina Modotti: Photographer and Revolutionary, title page and p. VIII
    Hooks, Tina Modotti, pl. 8
    Sullivan, Women Photographers, pl. 44

  • Catalogue Essay

    In her brief years in Mexico in the 1920s, Tina Modotti evolved into a highly accomplished photographer. From the beginning, her concerns were balanced between the social and the formal, the documentary and the aesthetic. While Mexico City’s streets, culture, and politics fascinated her, the controlled confines of the studio offered her the opportunity to perfect her own photographic vision and technique.

    The works she created on the streets and in her studio are linked by an assured and consistent visual sensibility. Roses, Mexico, Modotti’s most accomplished still life, demonstrates her ability to unite multiple forms into a cohesive and compelling whole. As in Campesinos (lot 9), Roses synthesizes a unified and harmonious composition from a multiplicity of similar parts. In Campesinos, the workers gather in a show of solidarity and strength. In Roses, a similar cohesion takes place, one that is less overtly political but perfectly in tune with her photographic vision.

    The print offered here comes originally from the collection of Vittorio Vidali (1900–1983), Modotti’s close friend and political ally during the last years of her life. It was Vittorio Vidali who preserved Modotti’s photographs and negatives after her death, and these in turn were inherited by Vidali’s son Carlos, who has subsequently promoted Modotti’s work and reputation through exhibitions and museum donations.

    In 1991, the year this print of Roses, Mexico, was sold at auction, The New York Times noted that it set a record not only for a work by Tina Modotti, but for any photograph sold at auction. In the 1990-1991 auction season in New York, this print of Roses bested works by El Lissitzky, Man Ray, and even Modotti’s own lover, Edward Weston, who came in a close second. Prints of the image are scarce. As of this writing, at least two prints have been located in private collections, and two in institutions. It is believed that this is one of only two early prints made by Modotti to appear at auction.


Roses, Mexico

Platinum or palladium print.
7 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (19.1 x 21.6 cm)
Vittorio Vidali’s ‘Commander of the Fifth Regiment’ stamp on the verso; signed in pencil and the Fifth Regiment stamp on the reverse of the repurposed mount.

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $220,000

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Passion & Humanity: The Susie Tompkins Buell Collection

New York Auction 4 April 2019