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Maniqui con voz (Mannequin with Voice)

Manuel Álvarez Bravo, Mexican, 1902 - 2002

Photograph taken in Mexico, North and Central America

c. 1930-1935

Gelatin silver print

Image and sheet: 9 3/16 x 7 3/8 inches (23.3 x 18.7 cm) Mount: 18 1/16 x 14 1/16 inches (45.9 x 35.7 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. The Lynne and Harold Honickman Gift of the Julien Levy Collection, 2001

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Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Julien Levy was not simply a collector of photographs, but a gallery owner who committed his charisma, connections, and personal resources to establishing photography’s importance in the field of modern art. From 1931 to 1948, Levy owned a gallery on Madison Avenue in New York, where he exhibited the work of many of the artists he had met or befriended in Paris and elsewhere. His interest in Surrealism led to an exhibition in January 1932, before the first museum’s treatment of the subject at The Museum of Modern Art in 1936. By the end of 1933, he had already organized at least fifteen exhibitions of photographs in addition to the shows devoted to other forms of contemporary art.

    Many of the artists who exhibited at the Levy Gallery are now widely recognized as masters of the photographic medium. However, at the time, Levy’s selection of work was guided by his own taste and his interest in the process of art-making more than in the individual masterpiece. As a result, the collection contains some surprising pictures by familiar artists as well as compelling bodies of work by relatively unknown photographers. Levy’s interests ranged from the history of photography, evidenced by the work of such nineteenth- and early twentieth-century photographers as Nadar, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and Gertrude Käsebier, to Surrealism, seen in the photographs by Dora Maar, Brassaï, Luis Buñuel, and Salvador Dalí, to name only a few.

    Fifteen prints from 1930 come from the Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, whose work was adopted by the Surrealists. The dress form in Mannequin with Voice echoes the Surrealist fixation with the female torso and humorously juxtaposes the dummy with the living man behind it. The gaping bell of the gramophone suggests a voice for the headless figure.

    The gift of the Levy Collection—a group of nearly 2,500 objects—imparts a more distinct international flavor to the Museum’s photography holdings, which hitherto were predominantly American. It also augments our renowned holdings of the work of Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand. One of the delights of the collection is its group of eleven pictures by Anne Brigman, a California photographer whose works were collected by Stieglitz and published in his journal Camera Work. Other gems include a gelatin silver print of Charles Sheeler’s Side of White Barn and two platinum prints by Paul Outerbridge. Even Levy himself is represented by his series of semi-nude portraits of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Katherine Ware, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), pp. 90-91.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    In Mannequin with Voice, Manuel Álvarez Bravo uses the random proximity of items on the sidewalk - a tailor's dummy, a gramophone, and a kneeling shopkeeper - to create an inexplicable narrative. His work grew out of the fertile artistic climate of Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s, which was enriched by an influx of international visitors.

    Though Álvarez Bravo had a talent for capturing the collision of the traditional and the contemporary in his native country, this picture fits more seamlessly with French street photography of the 1930s by artists such as Brassaï, Cartier-Bresson, and André Kertész. Essentially realists who used the camera to record the world around them, these photographers' taste for the oddities and incongruities of everyday life brought their work to the attention of the Surrealists. This photograph belonged to Julien Levy, an ambitious young man who opened an art gallery in New York in 1931 and was one of the earliest proponents of Surrealism in North America. The Museum is now home to 2,500 photographs from Levy's collection and to a major holding of his papers. Katherine Ware, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections, 2009.

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