In December 1948, Life magazine sent Cartier-Bresson to China to document the turbulent transition from Kuomintang to Communist rule. This photograph captures the pandemonium incited by the currency crash of that month, when the value of paper money plummeted and the Kuomintang decided to distribute forty grams of gold per person. Thousands waited in line for hours as the police made only a token gesture toward maintaining order, resulting in ten deaths by suffocation. Cartier-Bresson deftly captured the desperation and claustrophobia of the scene by compressing the mass of people within a tight frame as they propelled themselves toward the bank building just beyond the right edge of the picture.
Inscription: Inscribed in blue ink on print, verso, TL: "Inflation en 48"; C: "Henri Cartier-Bresson // Magnum 125 Fbg St Honoré // E241591 8-"; BL to BR: "Shangai 48. Pendant les derniers jours de suprématie du Kuomintang la monnaie s'effondant, le gouvernement mit de l'or sur le marché. Le foule se precipita vers les banques. Sept personnes mourient etouffées"; inscribed in pencil on print, verso, BL: "Chine Histoire"; stamped in blue ink on print, verso, CL: "Please return to // MAGNUM PHOTOS // 125 Faubourg Saint-Honoré // Paris - VIIIe"
Artist/Magnum; [...]; Maurice Michelet, early 1970s (in lot of 250 prints); [Simon Lowinsky, New York, 2001]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 34," February 25, 2003–June 22, 2003.