Rare Vintage Print of Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ Brings $305k in October 2022 Auction of Fine Photographs

The Thursday, October 20 sale of Fine Photographs at Swann Galleries brought $1.2M with a strong showing for American photography and portfolios.

Romana Javitz & Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age 32), silver print, 1936. Previously in the collection of Romana Javitz. Sold for $305,000.

The top lot for the auction went to Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, 1936, at $305,000. The vintage print was once in the collection of photography champion Romana Javitz. Of the lot, Deborah Rogal, director of photographs for the house, noted, “The thrilling result of Lange’s Migrant Mother demonstrates both the continued power of this iconic image and of photography in general, as well as honors the legacy of the great Romana Javitz. We were immensely honored to offer this rare vintage print and to have the opportunity to revisit Romana’s important contributions to the field at the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection.”

American Photographers

Ansel Adams, Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, silver print, 1941, printed 1960s. Formerly in the collection of Sey & Natalie Chassler. Sold for $45,000.

In addition to Lange, iconic American photographers and imagery formed the foundation of the top 15 lots of the auction. Highlights included Ansel Adams Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941, printed 1960s, at $45,000; and a portfolio of 40 Civil Rights photographs made between 1962 and 1964 (printed 2010) by Danny Lyon—including several important images from Lyon’s time as a staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, at $37,500. Also of note were works by Edward Curtis, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston and W. Eugen Smith,

Portraiture Photography

Andy Warhol, Portrait of Robert Mapplethorpe, unique Polaroid Polacolor type, 1983. Sold for $16,250.

Portraiture included Andy Warhol’s unique 1983 Polaroid image of Robert Mapplethorpe, at $16,250; Peter Hujar’s Portrait of Anne Burritt, 1981, at $9,375; Yousuf Karsh’s Georgia O’Keeffe, 1956, printed 1980s, at $9,100; and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Henri Matisse, Vence, France, 1944, printed 1970s, at $8,125.

Additional Highlights

Further works of note featured a selection of five real photo postcards of Société Anonyme that brought $16,875; The Year of Tibet Portfolio I, 1928-90, printed 1990, assembled by Richard Gere and Bill Borden for Tibet House, New York, at $16,250; and an album with approximately 89 photographs of Māori portraits and the changing New Zealand landscape, at $11,250.

“Collectors continue to demonstrate their strong interest in compelling, rare, and fresh material. Our sales results show strength and diversity in the field and support our approach to organizing diverse, expansive auctions that speak to a spectrum of collectors and interests,” concluded Rogal. 

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