He's sticking his tongue out in a gesture to "all of humanity." In Albert Einstein's own words, that was the message behind his playful expression, captured in a 1951 photograph.
Soon the iconic photo, along with a message written in Einstein's native German, will be in the hands of a Great Neck collector who purchased a copy of the image for $74,324 Thursday.
"It's a picture for the ages," David Waxman, owner of Estates of Mind, a rare book, manuscript and autograph business for more than 25 years, said Saturday.
Einstein gave a copy of the irreverent photo to American broadcast journalist Howard K. Smith with the inscription: "This gesture you will like, because it is aimed at all of humanity . . . "
The note is apparently the closest the physicist came to explaining his action, said Bobby Livingston of New Hampshire-based RRAuction.com.
"In the middle of a Communist witch hunt, here he is sticking his tongue out," Livingston said. "I think he's telling us to buck authority."
Waxman said, "You have the man who was deemed the man of the century. This is his assessment of contemporary humanity. You can develop what it means to you. For me, the whole thing becomes a work of art."
The photographer, Arthur Sasse of United Press International, said Einstein was so taken with the image that he requested nine copies, Livingston said. Sasse apparently received one signed print, but its whereabouts and those of the seven other images are unknown, Livingston said. Einstein died in 1955.
Last week's auction yielded what is believed to be the most expensive auction sale of an autographed Einstein photo, Livingston said. Waxman plans to market the photo.