Front / Recto

  • Title The Smoker–The Match–The Cigarette (Il fumatore–il cerino–la sigaretta)
  • Negative Date 1911
  • Print Date 1920–33
  • Medium Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions Image 4 5/16 x 4 1/8" (11 x 10.4 cm)
    Sheet 4 1/2 × 4 1/4" (11.4 × 10.8 cm)
  • Place Taken Rome
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
  • MoMA Accession Number 1635.2001
  • Copyright © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
  • Description

    With the advent in the early to mid–twentieth century of telephones, motorcars, the cinema, and X-rays, static representations, whether in painting or photography, of a solid material world no longer seemed relevant to the pace, porousness, and fluidity of modern life. The art of the time reflected these new perceptions. Some artists shattered the contours of objects into faceted cubes or created alternative abstract worlds; others sought to convey the essence of things in motion or dispersed in space. To express this new sense of reality, the Bragaglia brothers, Anton Giulio and Arturo, invented photographs that would convey the passage of time in the photograph’s single moment.

    As teenagers in Rome, the Bragaglias learned photography and filmmaking at Cines, a film studio in Rome managed by their father. In 1911 they were exposed to Henri Bergson’s idea that time is a continuous flow and to the chronophotographs of Étienne-Jules Marey, which showed intermittent but interrelated stages of movement, and they were immersed in the poetry and paintings of the Italian Futurists, who found various ways to embody the interpenetration of time and space. Using themselves and their friends as models, the brothers posed a sitter against a dark background and lit him brightly. While the sitter performed a simple action, such as nodding or smoking, the brothers left the camera shutter open for several seconds, in a relatively long exposure. They disseminated the resulting photodynamic images on postcards, demonstrating not only the transience of form within a moment but also an equally revolutionary idea: that art was no longer the property of museums but an intercourse of ideas among people.

    Anton Giulio, the more theoretical of the two as well as the publicist in the duo, gave several lectures in 1911; in 1913 he gathered his pronouncements into a manifesto, published as a pamphlet, “Fotodinamismo futurista,” and mounted an exhibition of thirty images at the Galleria Romagna in Rome. Unlike earlier motion studies, the images were made not in the service of science but rather to convey sensation and meaning, to be a kind of Futurist art. Although the Futurists rejected the Bragaglias as spokesmen, preferring to speak for their movement themselves, the manifesto constituted an original and early instance of avant-garde theory for photography.

    This print is not a Photographic Postcard but a slightly larger gelatin silver print, made on paper produced, according to fiber analysis, between 1920 and 1933. Because it is conspicuously signed at lower right in white gouache, it was likely intended for exhibition and reproduction. The Bragaglias made several prints of this image, each with a different signature in a different location and employing a variety of photographic papers and croppings. The image shows the Futurist painter Luigi Russolo holding a box of matches in his left hand, with dematerialized traces of movement in space recording the trajectory of his actions as he struck the match, inhaled to light the cigarette, and exhaled. This, Anton Giulio wrote, was “completely different to the pose, completely different to the snapshot”; rather, it was the essence of the act and the moment. What makes this picture especially winning is the particular action: its short duration and simple motion created a pellucid time-lapse image.[1] Our familiarity with the motions of smoking and our innate knowledge of breathing convey us directly into the experience. The sympathetic echo of this sensate knowledge in our own bodies and the conflation of the arc of movement with the smoke’s semitransparency give the image its trancelike charm.

    —Maria Morris Hambourg, Hanako Murata

    1. Anton Giulio BragagliaFotodinamismo futurista (Rome: Nalato Editore, 1913), p. 19.

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type No mount
  • Marks and Inscriptions Signed in white ink on sheet recto, bottom right: Bragaglia. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, top left: 333. Stamped in red ink on sheet verso, top center: PREGASI/CITARE:/Foto BRAGAGLIA Roma [with rectangular outline]. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, center: 9 x 9,5 [crossed out]. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, center right: 4. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom: ←8 cm→.
  • Provenance The artists, Rome; probably by inheritance to Antonella Vigliani Bragaglia or Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia, Rome. Giovanni Lista, Paris [1]; sold through Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York ("Italian Futurist Photographs: Property from the Collection of Giovanni Lista," sale 4956, lot 12), to Weston Gallery, Carmel, Calif., November 9, 1982; sold through Sotheby's New York (sale 5571, lot 47) to Thomas Walther, May 6, 1987 [2]; given to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] The print was included in Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, Photographie futuriste italienne (1911–1939), organized by Giovanni Lista, October 29, 1981–January 3, 1982 (no. 27, incorrectly dated as 1913).
    [2] MacGill/Walther 2001(4), p. 2.


  • Surface Sheen Semireflective
  • Techniques Contact print
  • PTM
    View of the recto of the artwork made using reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) software, which exaggerates subtle surface details and renders the features of the artwork plainly visible. Department of Conservation, MoMA
  • Micro-raking
    Raking-light close-up image, as shot. Area of detail is 6.7 x 6.7 mm. Department of Conservation, MoMA
    Raking-light close-up image, processed. Processing included removal of color, equalization of the histogram, and sharpening, all designed to enhance visual comparison. Department of Conservation, MoMA

Paper Material

  • Format Unknown
  • Weight Single weight
  • Thickness (mm) 0.17
  • UV Fluorescence Recto negative
    Verso negative
  • Fiber Analysis Softwood bleached sulfite 84%
    Rag 11%
    Bast 5%
  • Material Techniques Developing-out paper
  • XRF

    This work was determined to be a gelatin silver print via X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry.

    The following elements have been positively identified in the work, through XRF readings taken from its recto and verso (or from the mount, where the verso was not accessible):

    • Recto: S, Ca, Zn, Br, Sr, Ag, Ba, Pb
    • Verso: Al, S, Ca, Cr, Zn, Sr, Ba, Pb

    The graphs below show XRF spectra for three areas on the print: two of the recto—from areas of maximum and minimum image density (Dmax and Dmin)—and one of the verso or mount. The background spectrum represents the contribution of the XRF instrument itself. The first graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the lower energy range (0 to 8 keV). The second graph shows elements identified through the presence of their characteristic peaks in the higher energy range (8 to 40 keV).

    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Al, S, Ca, Cr, Sr, Ag, Ba
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Zn, Br, Sr, Ag, Pb

In Context

Historical Publications

  • Bragaglia, Anton Giulio. Fotodinamismo Futurista, pl. 3 (as Il fumatore–il cerino–la sigaretta). 3rd ed. 1910–11; Rome: Nalato, 1913.

    Sanzin, Bruno. Mostra Nazionale di Fotografica Futurista (as Fumatore [Fotodinamica]). Trieste: Movimento Futurista, 1932.

Historical Exhibitions

  • Sindacato Belle Arti, Trieste, Italy. Mostra Nazionale di Fotografica Futurista (no. 34, as Fumatore). April 1–17, 1932.

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