Mode au Congo (Comtesse Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry) (Primary Title)

Man Ray, American, 1890 - 1976 (Artist)

Gelatin silver print on carte postale
Sheet: 5 3/8 × 3 1/2 in. (13.65 × 8.89 cm)
Image: 5 1/4 × 3 1/2 in. (13.34 × 8.89 cm)
Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry (1901-1979), who was born Consuelo Suncín Sandoval de Gómez in El Salvador, became a comtesse (countess) in 1931 when she married the French aristocrat, pioneering aviator, and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A prominent socialite, the comtesse posed for Man Ray in a series of photographs in May 1937 wearing headwear and bracelets from the Congo River Basin that had been purchased by the leading French milliner Lilly Daché from the 1931 Exposition coloniale international (International Colonial Exhibition) in Paris. The Charles Ratton Gallery included these African objects in the exhibition La Mode au Congo (Fashion in the Congo), on view from April 29 to the end of May 1937. The display of material culture from the Congo River Basin as fashion items in a chic Parisian art gallery epitomizes the colonial appropriation of African art by the Western market. In Man Ray’s portrait, Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry wears an elaborate beaded headdress and an ivory bangle on her arm, as she holds another, larger ivory bracelet like a bowl. Her countenance exudes regal detachment, as if to suggest that the headdress she wears denotes a status of nobility or royalty, like a crown.
Gallery label affixed to mat verso: "Bruce Silverstein/ Man Ray (1890-1976)/ Mode au Congo (Comtesse de St. Exupery), 1930/ Gelatin silver print on carte postale, printed 1930/ 5 1/4 x 3 1/2 in. (13.6 x 9 cm)/ MRA-00072-SP/ 529 West 20th Street 3rd floor New York, NY 10011".
Possible photographer's archive number inscribed in graphite on right edge of verso: "MRA-00072-SP".
Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment
Man Ray: The Paris Years, VMFA, October 30, 2021 – February 21, 2022

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.