The Fifty Faces of Juliet is a collection of fifty photographs of Man Ray's wife, taken by the artist between 1941 and 1955. It is currently on show at the Fondazione Marconi Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Milan.
Man Ray met Juliet in 1940 in Hollywood, California. Six years later they were married. The fifty photographs presented in this exhibition are a message and declaration of his love to Juliet; his lover, companion, friend, wife, model and muse.
Man Ray described these fifty different versions of Juliet as her fifty souls. He photographed her with consideration and desire, whilst respecting her beauty, each time reinvented, rewritten and recomposed.
Man Ray emphasised Juliet’s beauty with pencil marks, fabric or transparent mesh. The album is experimental, gathering the artist’s research on light including overdeveloping and dithering. Some of the shots were even touched up with coloured pastels.
Just like Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe, a recurrent feature in Man Ray’s portraits are Juliet’s hands; often arranged close to her face, gloved, bare or solarised.
In the early 1950s, Man Ray conceived to use these fifty photographs to produce a book as homage to Juliet. For a while, he searched in vain for a publisher in Paris and eventually gave up.
When Giorgio Marconi came across the photographs and asked to purchase them, Man Ray said he’d sell them if and when he could find someone to publish them in book form. In 1981, on the occasion of an exhibition at Fondazione Mazzotta, Marconi was able to publish the elusive book, and Juliet, in keeping Man Ray’s promise, sold the photos to Marconi but replaced one of the images with a coloured one she liked more. Subsequently, the book was not as Man Ray had intended it.
When the first edition of the book was published, Marconi was already thinking of a second edition with full-scale photos and with the photo originally chosen by Man Ray. Luckily, Juliet accepted this, and today, on the occasion of the current exhibition at Fondazione Marconi, a limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies as originally intended by Man Ray, are available.
The exhibition, at Fondazione Marconi Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Via Tadino, 15, 20124 Milan, runs until July 22nd 2011. For more info visit: fondazionemarconi.org.