Movie Poster of the Week: “Battleship Potemkin” and the Stenberg Brothers at Auction

A look at a rare auction of Stenberg brothers posters of the 1920s.
Adrian Curry

Above: Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

On November 1st, at Christie’s Auction House in London, a remarkable sale will take place under the banner “Vintage Posters” of 13 original Stenberg brothers film posters from the 1920s and 5 original “maquettes” or mock-up sketches. I have written about the Stenbergs a couple of times before, but although their fame is prodigious (they had a landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1997), original copies of their posters rarely come up for sale, let alone their original sketches.

The jewels in this crown are the posters for Battleship Potemkin and Man with a Movie Camera, which, according to Christie’s, may never have come up for auction before. Their sales estimates are between $96,000 and $128,000, which would put them among the top 20 most expensive movie posters of all time

Above: Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

The Man with a Movie Camera poster is one of my all-time favorites: a witty and surreal design that explodes with color and movement, and revels in dynamic composition and expressive typography; a poster that conveys what is novel and thrilling about the film it represents and yet creates something entirely new. Equally fascinating, however, are the Stenberg’s sketches which give us a glimpse of their working methods. In the two maquettes below you can see the grid marked out on the faces—evidence perhaps of the projector they used to sketch directly from film strips. 

Above: Stenberg brothers' sketch for The Eyes of Love (1923, credits otherwise unknown), the first poster the Stenbergs ever designed and signed simply “Sten” rather than their trademark “2 Stenberg 2.”

Above: Stenberg brothers sketch for what is probably Victor Sjöström’s Karin Ingmarsdotter (Sweden, 1920).

The other Stenberg posters and sketches going on the block can all be seen below, or at Christie’s in London prior to auction, starting Saturday October 27. All images in this post are courtesy of Christie’s and reproduced with permission. 

Above: The Big Sorrow of a Small Woman. Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: A Difficult Role (credits unknown). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: Negro Operetta (credits unknown, c. 1926). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: Child of the Market (credits unknown). Poster by the Stenberg brothers. See also the sketch below.

Above: Comrade Airship (credits unknown). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: The Knight’s Move. Poster by the Stenberg brothers. Though in an earlier Stenberg post I had credited this as being French director Raymond Bernard’s 1924 Miracle of the Wolves, it seems much more likely that it is his 1927 The Chess Player.

Above: Idol of the Public aka A Small Town Idol (Erle Kenton and Mack Sennett, USA, 1921). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: Sneaky Operators a.k.a. Danger Ahead (William K. Howard, USA, 1924). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: The Child Snatchers, a 1926 Danish comedy starring Carl Schenstrom and Harald Madsen as “Pat and Patachon.” Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: The Policemen, another “Pat and Patachon” comedy (Denmark, 1928). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: Cafe Fanconi (Mikhail Kapchinsky, USSR, 1927). Poster by the Stenberg brothers.

Above: Stenberg brothers sketch for Case Blero (c. 1926).

Above: Stenberg brothers sketch for The Son of the Hovel (c. 1927).

Above: Stenberg brothers sketch for Child of the Market (c. 1926).

Many thanks to Sophie Churcher and Ava Carleton-Williams at Christie’s.


Movie Poster of the WeekStenberg BrothersSergei EisensteinDziga VertovColumns
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