Compliments from Nikola Tesla

Tesla, Nikola, Serbian-American inventor (1856-1943). Portrait photograph inscribed, dated and signed.

No place, 25 April 1921.

Vintage print, dimensions 225 x 185 mm (image 235 x 185 mm). Sarony's signet to the lower right corner of the image. Archival matting and framed with UV-protecting museum glass to an overall size of 30 x 36 cm. A tiny tear to the upper left edge, not affecting the image; a faint trace of a pencil line in the area of the forehead. Stamp of the "Teslaiana Collection" on verso. In fine condition.


Stunning, large-format portrait photograph, inscribed by the sitter to an unidentified recipient with "Compliments from Nikola Tesla".

The great inventor is seen at half-length in a thoughtful pose, starkly illuminated and sitting slightly inclined to his right, his left hand in his lap, his right elbow poised on an armrest, his forefinger at his temple and his thumb against his chin. One of the several iconic portraits that the legendary celebrity studio of Napoleon Sarony (1821-96) took of Tesla in the 1890s. The Fifth Avenue address, where Sarony relocated in the year of his death, dates this likeness to 1896 or soon after, when Napoleon's son Otto Sarony took over the business.

Signed Tesla photographs are exceedingly rare on the market. We could trace a single other specimen in the trade: another silver print by Sarony, but creased lengthwise through the centre, inscribed vertically and dated 1934 (Swann, 1996, sale 1714, lot 224).

Cat. no.: 54 Catalogue: Firsts 2022