SILVER GELATIN PHOTOGRAPH OF EINSTEIN. AN IMPORTANT ASSOCIATION PHOTOGRAPH: SIGNED AND INSCRIBED BY EINSTEIN TO HIS LIFELONG FRIEND AND PHYSICIAN JANOS PLESCH.
A beautiful photograph showing a youthful-looking Einstein sitting comfortably in a chair looking straight into the camera. Inscribed by Einstein underneath the photograph on the original photographer’s mount: “Meinem lieben Freund Plesch/ zum 50./ Albert Einstein 1928” [“My dear friend Plesch on 50”]. Presumably given to Plesch on his 50th birthday, November 18, 1928. In November, 1928, Einstein was staying at Plesch’s country estate on the Havel River outside of Berlin recovering from pericarditis (under the medical supervision of Plesch).
The physician Janos Plesch (1878-1957) was a major figure in Einstein’s life. “Einstein first met Plesch in 1919, when he was caring for his mother, Pauline, during her terminal illness, and chose him as his own physician when he became gravely ill with heart problems in 1928. Plesch guided him to recovery, part of which took place at Plesch’s palatial villa in Gatow, where Einstein enjoyed privacy in the lakes region of southwestern Berlin. It has been said that Plesch and Einstein enjoyed each other’s ribald sense of humor. Einstein is reputed to have said ‘Plesch is a pig, but he is my friend’” (Calaprice, An Einstein Encyclopedia).
Shortly after the presentation of this photograph Einstein turned fifty as well and it was Plesch who arranged for the city of Berlin to grant Einstein, “its most famous citizen,” as a birthday present “lifelong rights to live in a country house that was part of a large lakeside estate that the city had acquired. There he would be able to escape, sail his wooden boat, and scribble his equations in serenity. It was a generous and gracious gesture. It was also a welcome one... He was thrilled to accept” (Isaacson, Einstein).
Einstein and Plesch remained close throughout Einstein’s life, with Plesch visiting Einstein in Princeton only a few weeks before Einstein’s death on April 18, 1955. (During that visit, Plesch gave the ailing Einstein a box of fine cigars. “When Einstein saw them, he smiled and said, ‘My God, I’ll have to smoke these fast in order to enjoy them all!’”). Bucky, The Private Albert Einstein.
With the blind-stamp (“E Bieber”) of the photographic studio on the bottom left of the image and “E. Bieber / Hofphotograph / Berlin” stamped on the original mount beneath Einstein’s inscription. The E. Bieber studio was arguably the most prominent photographic studio operating in Berlin in the 1920s.
Framed in what is almost certainly a contemporary frame (likely by Plesch). Size: Photograph = approx. 6.5 x 8 inches; with mount = 10.75 x 15 in.; with frame: 12 x 16 in. A touch of silvering around edges of photograph; inscription a little light (but clearly legible).
Note: Signed photographs of Einstein from this period of his life are considerably more rare than those after he emigrated to the United States and photographs with such a strong personal connection are particularly scarce.