Complete copy of Riefenstahl’s groundbreaking photo-book on Olympia 1936

Leni RIEFENSTAHL: Schönheit im olympischen Kampf. With ca. 300, whereof 3 double-paged and 77 full-paged photogravüre reproductions. Berlin: 1937.

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Leni RIEFENSTAHL: Schönheit im olympischen Kampf [The Beauty of Olympic Fighting]. With ca. 300, whereof 3 double-paged and 77 full-paged photogravüre reproductions. Cover design by Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag 1937.

4to. P. [1-8], p. 9-280, [3] p. Original aubum-coloured publisher’s cloth cover with gilt embossed title on front cover and spine, original publisher’s multi-coloured photographically illustrated dust jacket on white stock and original slipcase.

1st edition of Leni Riefenstahl’s groundbreaking photo-book, this copy completely equipped with all features of the original delivery, thus with publisher’s dust wrapper and slipcase, only lacking the glassine cover initially wrapped around the dust jacket.

Photos, Content: The book contains reproductions of around 300 superb photographies and film stills made by different operators and photographers as part of Riefenstahl’s crew for the propaganda motion picture »Olympia« (1938), an epoque-making sports documentary. All of the illustrations are skillfully printed in photogravure on thick quality paper, and thus showing the luscious grayscales of the original material in striking quality.

Despite ideological pressure by Goebbels, whose goal was to show the Olympic athlete as Aryan „Übermensch“, and despite Riefenstahls’ own commitment as a film-maker to Nazi-propaganda (»Reichsparteitagstrilogie« (1933-35), she choose a more progressive aesthetic approach for »Olympia« and allowed herself to include pictures of e.g. Afro-American sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens, the most successful athlete of the Berlin games. Riefenstahl’s aim was to create pictures „schöner als in der Wirklichkeit“ (more beautiful than in reality) as she writes in her preface to the book. „Although the film Olympia has become an acknowledged classic, her book of photographs, Schönheit im Olympischen Kampf, no less spectacular in its own way, is less known. Sometimes Riefenstahl relied on poses modelled on the antique Greek ideal, faithful to Hitler's belief that modern Teutonic man was 'feeling closer to classical antiquity' than he had 'in possibly a thousand years'. But far more original were her depictions of superbly athletic bodies soaring gracefully through the air and knifing effortlessly through the water.

Riefenstahl applied certain devices characteristic of the new German photography - strong diagonals, tight croppings, and bird's-eye and worm's-eye views. No longer was the camera an earthbound witness; it took to the air and the water with the athletes" Each of the illustrations carries captions in German, French, English, Spanish and Italian. The last 32 pages are dedicated to a „Making-of“ of the movie.

Condition: Closing clap of slipcase missing, as well as glassine cover. Slipcase with minimal traces of use, 2 leafs with small tears and very slightly creased. Overall a brillantly preserved copy with an excellent dust jacket, truly deserving the rating „complete“.

Reference: William A. Ewing: The Body. Photographs of the Human Form

Additional information

Weight 4 kg