Edward Curtis' North American Indian among highlights at Swann

Edward S Curtis' The North American Indian will lead a photographic sale at Swann Auction Galleries on May 16.

Valued at $250,000-350,000, the 20-volume work is one of around 275 copies and bears a signature from both Curtis and President Theodore Roosevelt.

North American Indian

The portraits were intended to capture a disappearing way of life


It includes thousands of portraits of indigenous peoples from across North America. The grand project was financed by the enormously wealthy industrialist JP Morgan, who provided Curtis with $75,000 worth of funding.

At the time it was started, in 1906, the traditional Native American way of life was in a major decline - their ancestral lands stolen from under them.

Curtis explains in the introduction to the first volume: "The information that is to be gathered…respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost."

The collection is exceptionally rare in its complete state. In 2012 another set realised $1.4m at Swann, setting an auction house record.

A print of Nick Brandt's iconic Portrait of Elephant in Dust, Amboseli is expected to make $40,000-60,000.  

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