Irving Penn - PHOTOGRAPHS New York Friday, April 16, 2010 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Andrew Smith Gallery, Santa Fe

  • Literature

    Knopf, Irving Penn: Passage, p. 61 there titled Brother and Sister, Cuzco; Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 59 there titled Mountain Children, Cuzco; Westerbeck, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, pl. 37

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Cuzco portraits, taken while on assignment for Vogue in Peru in December of 1948, mark a pivotal point in Irving Penn’s career in both subject matter and style. Up until then, Penn’s portraits—from Elsa Schiaparelli to Georgia O’Keefe and George Grosz, were mostly shot while the subjects were left to interact with two large planks propped up in an acute angle at the studio. The extreme nature of the space engendered a variety of reactions by the subjects—from self-contained and shriveling, to self-assured and playful. The architectural confinement became a Rorschach test, revealing and absconding different facets of the subjects’ personalities. However, the Cuzco portraits were devoid of any such spatially confining props. Moreover, the anonymity of the subjects, as opposed to the celebrity status of the aforementioned famed figures, dismissed the inner-self/public-image dichotomy, thereby eliminating the need to present a prop that would provoke the surfacing of a latent, private side. As such, the removal of the corner space bore implications that surpassed its own literalness. It was an opening in spatial and intellectual ways for Penn, since his subjects, for the first time were free to present themselves as they wished, and not in reaction to a given physical specificity.
    Penn’s Cuzco Children, depicting a brother and sister, is a humble and natural ode, but not to a different culture as much as the human self. The subjects, while barefoot and dressed in clothes that differed from those of their Western counterparts, appear accessible and familiar. Gone is the erstwhile exoticization with which South American children had been traditionally photographed, namely, holding wild flowers, exotic fruit, and feral animals. The siblings are shown confidently leaning against a small side table for support; their hands are linked over the table, alluding to their co-dependence, as they confidently gaze back into the camera. It is not the look of pride nor shame that they give, but one of asserting presence. It is that very same quality that prompted Penn, upon his return from Peru, to take down the studio walls, and allow his subjects to simply be. From the New Guinea mud men and the Dahomey Children (lot 255), to Pablo Picasso and Willem De Kooning, all were given the opportunity to freely engage with the space around them and present themselves in a manner they felt reflected their essence most suitably.

  • Artist Biography

    Irving Penn

    American • 1917 - 2009

    Arresting portraits, exquisite flowers, luscious food and glamorous models populate Irving Penn's meticulously rendered, masterful prints. Penn employed the elegant simplicity of a gray or white backdrop to pose his subjects, be it a model in the latest Parisian fashion, a famous subject or veiled women in Morocco.

    Irving Penn's distinct aesthetic transformed twentieth-century elegance and style, with each brilliant composition beautifully articulating his subjects. Working across several photographic mediums, Penn was a master printmaker. Regardless of the subject, each and every piece is rendered with supreme beauty. 

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Cuzco Children, Peru, December

Gelatin silver print, printed 2002.
15 1/4 x 15 in. (38.7 x 38.1 cm).
Signed, titled, dated in ink, copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the mount. One from an edition of 30.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $74,500


16 April 2010
New York