Estate sales can be amazing places to find treasures. At a 2021 estate sale in Connecticut, photographer Jeff Sedlik discovered a long-lost masterpiece. Purchasing the faded photograph for $2,200 turned out to be a smart investment. The framed print turned out to include two long-lost Alfred Stieglitz prints. These works by the famous turn-of-the-century photographer evince his classic Pictorialism. Now up for auction at Christie's, the prints are expected to sell for up to $250,000.
The prints, one much more faded than the other, are titled A Venetian Courtyard, 1894. The platinum prints show a woman drawing water from a well, dressed in classic working class garb. The images are classic examples of Pictorialism, a style of art which sought to raise the medium to a fine art. Idealized scenes were common fodder for expressing a dreamlike ethos. The image here was taken when the artist was on his honeymoon in Venice. It was exhibited in 1899 at the Camera Club in New York City, then later at the Philadelphia Salon.
In fact, it was this copy that was exhibited, as a signed notation on the back of one copy proves. Three existing copies were known before this estate sale find, but none were the fine example exhibited. In fact, it remains in such good condition due to it being hidden behind the faded version for many years. Its discovery might be quite the windfall for Sedlik. As Christie's says, “The rarity of this find cannot be overstated.” Some lucky collector or museum will soon gain a piece of photographic history.
These Alfred Stieglitz prints were purchased at an estate sale for $2,200, but are now expected to sell at Christie's for up to $250,000.
The prints are iconic examples of the artist's work, and they were last exhibited in 1899.