Front / Recto

  • Title Metropolis (City of My Birth) (Weltstadt [Meine Geburtsstadt])
  • Negative Date 1923
  • Print Date 1923–30
  • Medium Gelatin silver print
  • Dimensions Image 8 × 6" (20.3 × 15.3 cm)
  • Place Taken Weimar
  • Credit Line Thomas Walther Collection. Gift of Thomas Walther
  • MoMA Accession Number 1651.2001
  • Copyright © 2015 Paul Citroen/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/Pictoright, Amsterdam
  • Description

    Paul Citroen joined the Bauhaus in 1922, and this Photomontage was exhibited in the school’s first exhibition, in July–September, 1923. The original Collage was constructed from two hundred images excised with a sharp blade from newspapers and postcards (of which Citroen was an avid collector) and meticulously pasted and arranged on a secondary support. There is not a single gap between the collage pieces. This image was published in 1925 in László Moholy-Nagy’s book Malerei, Fotografie, Film (Painting, Photography, Film), under the title Die Stadt I (The city I), along with two other photomontages. The Thomas Walther Collection print is considerably smaller than the original collage, which is 26 7/16 by 23 inches (67.1 by 58.4 centimeters). The work gives the strong impression of a microworld that can be held in your hand.

    It is likely that Citroen created the photomontage’s essential internegative by photographing the collage on an easel or pinned to the wall, and then eliminated unwanted background elements by either cropping or trimming in the next stage of production. In the print, details in each building can be detected by the naked eye, but under the microscope Citroen’s fastidious preparation is even clearer, as are the identities of the buildings and other delightful architectural juxtapositions. The photograph’s surface is matte and, at 0.168 millimeters thick, slightly thinner than typical single-weight papers in the Walther Collection. Fiber analysis indicates that the photographic paper was produced between 1915 and 1927. The original Metropolis (City of My Birth) collage was modified by Citroen after 1925, perhaps to rectify damaged edges and corners or other losses. This small, pristine print, however, does not reflect these changes. Instead it captures the iconic but fleeting first state of this work.

    —Hanako Murata

Back / Verso

  • Mount Type No mount
  • Marks and Inscriptions Inscribed in black ink on sheet verso, center: "Weltstadt"/Fotomontage/Weimar 1923. Inscribed in black ink on sheet verso, center left: 2 [circled and crossed out]. Inscribed in pencil on sheet verso, bottom left: Paul Citroen/Wereldstad/Fotomontage [crossed out]. Inscribed in black ink on sheet verso, bottom left: Meine Geburtsstadt. Signed in ink on sheet verso, bottom right: Paul Citroen. Inscribed in pink pencil on sheet verso, bottom right: 5.
  • Provenance The artist, Wassenaar, the Netherlands. Sold through Sotheby's London (sale LN8302, lot 168) to Thomas Walther, May 7, 1998 [1]; given to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2001.
    [1] Sotheby’s invoice no. LN83020046, May 7, 1998.


  • Surface Sheen Matte
  • Techniques Photomontage
  • 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 no data
    Verso no data
  • Fiber Analysis Softwood bleached sulfite 59%
    Rag 29%
    Bast 12%
  • 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: P, S, K, Ca, Zn, Sr, Ag, Ba, Pb
    • Verso: Al, Si, S, K, Ca, Fe, 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, Si, P, S, K, Ca, Ag, Ba
    Areas examined: Recto (Dmax: black; Dmin: green), Verso or Mount (blue), Background (red)
    Elements identified: Fe, Zn, Sr, Ag, Pb

In Context

Related Images

Spread from László Moholy-Nagy. Painting, Photography, Film (Malerei, Photographie, Film). Munich: Albert Langen Verlag, 1925. The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York. Left: Hannah Höch. The Multi-Millionaire (Der Milliardär). 1923. Right: Paul Citroen. Metropolis (City of My Birth) (Weltstadt [Meine Geburtsstadt]). 1923. © 2006 Hannah Höch/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. © Paul Citroën/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/Pictoright, Amsterdam

Historical Publications

  • Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung 24 (June 14, 1925): 743.

    Moholy-Nagy, László. Malerei, Photographie, Film, Bauhausbücher 8, p. 95 (as Die Stadt I). Munich: A. Langen Verlag, 1925.

    Roh, Franz. Nach-expressionismus: magischer Realismus; Probleme der neuesten Europäischen Malerei, p. 141 (as Weltstadt [Fotoklebebild]). Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1925.

    Pásmo: revue internationale modern 2, nos. 6–7 (1926): cover, 69 (as Město).

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