Image of New York Becomes Second Most Expensive Photo Ever Sold

flat iron
The Flatiron | Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen’s The Flatiron, an iconic photo of New York, has sold for $11.8 million, making it the second-most expensive photograph ever sold.

The rare photo was one of more than 150 works from the collection of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen that were sold by Christie’s Auction House in New York on Wednesday.

Steichen’s The Flatiron — which was taken in 1904 and printed in 1905 — smashed the expected sale estimate of $2 to $3 million.

In October, PetaPixel reported that art experts believed that Steichen’s image could surpass the auction record for a photograph given its rarity and importance in the photography community.

However, the record for the most expensive photograph of all time remains Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres which sold for $12.4 million just this May.

An Iconic Work

The Flatiron is one of Steichen’s most iconic works and is lauded by photography enthusiasts as one of the first examples of the medium’s ability to match painting as an art form.

The image was taken only two years after the Flatiron Building in New York was completed, a sign that modernity was flourishing in the city. It was also a reference to an earlier photograph by Steichen’s mentor and friend, Alfred Stieglitz, who had photographed the building the year before.

There are only three prints of the image in existence, two of which are in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection. And all three are different, thanks to Steichen’s use of gum bichromate over the platinum print, which gave each print a different hue.

The print was a part of the Steichen family collection until the 1990s when it was acquired by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

The Pond—Moonrise | Edward Steichen

The Flatiron sold for $11.8 million on Wednesday which was almost 5 times the photographer’s previous record for a sale of his work.

In 2006, a print of Steichen’s early pictorialist photograph, The Pond—Moonlight (1904), sold for US$2.9 million — at the time, the highest price ever paid for a photograph at auction. almost 5x the artist’s previous auction record.

Le Violon d’Ingres (1924) by Man Ray.

Man Ray’s Le Violon d’Ingres was also sold by Christie’s in New York and came with a $7 million high estimate. The iconic photo was taken in 1924 and depicts Kiki de Montparnasse, described as Man Ray’s muse, who is nude other than for the turban she wears on her head. Man Ray painted the f-holes of a stringed instrument (like a violin or a cello) on the print and then re-photographed it to create the final photo.

Image credits: Header by Edward Steichen, The Flatiron, 1904 (printed 1909), Flickr