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

Create your first list.

Select an existing list or create a new list to share and manage lots you follow.

  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Literature

    Greenough, Irving Penn: Platinum Prints, pl. 21; Knopf, Irving Penn: Passage, p. 82; Seidner, Lisa Fonssagrives: Three Decades of Classic Fashion Photography, p. 147; Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 47; Thames and Hudson, Balenciaga Paris, p. 73; Vogue Paris, 15 September 1950; Westerbeck, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, p. 179

  • Catalogue Essay

    Advances in commercial printing prior to the Second World War allowed for photographic reproductions to replace illustrations in fashion publications, resulting in demand for beautiful, photogenic women to embody the couturier’s vision, thereby signaling the birth of fashion photography. Soon thereafter, models, or, to use the French-heavy industry’s term at the time, mannequins, became synonymous with the maisons de haute couture for which they were hired; namely, Denise Poiret for Paul Poiret, Natasha Paley for Lucien Lelong and Muriel Maxwell for Chanel.
    Following the Second World War, however, a shift in aesthetics and perception of the role of the model took place. While French models remained exclusively linked to their maison de haute couture, their American and British counterparts dominated the editorial and commercial markets that rapidly expanded after the war, a period that became known as the Golden Age for fashion. By the end of the 1940’s, Lisa Fonssagrives, a Swedish-born New York-based model, had established herself as one of the most coveted models in the industry, possessing the quintessential aristocratic elegance favored by designers and photographers at the time. Her self-effacing humility was captured when she was famously quoted as saying, "It is always the dress, it is never, never the girl. I’m just a good clothes hanger." Her marriage to Irving Penn, who had already established himself as one of the most popular photographers at the time, led to some of the most iconic images in the history of fashion photography.
    In Cocoa dress (Balenciaga), Fonssagrives’a statuesque figure is lightly hunched forward, her right arm bent to not only support her chin but also subtly mirror the shape of the coat she is holding in her left arm. As opposed to his contemporaries, Balenciaga eschewed boning and heavy interfacing in his clothes in favor of accentuating volume, silhouette and understated simplicity, all of which Fonssagrives embodied in a seemingly effortless way under Penn’s direction. Penn understood that in a successful fashion photograph, the couture is not to be eclipsed by the charm of the model, nor should the model disappear in the overwhelming presence of the garment. By collaborating with Fonssgrives on a pose that echoed, complemented and showcased the unique structure and silhouette of the clothes, Penn created an image symbolizing one of the most illustrious periods in the history of fashion photography.

  • 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. 

    View More Works


Cocoa dress (Balenciaga), Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, Paris

Platinum-palladium print, printed before 1980.
19 1/4 x 19 3/8 in. (48.9 x 49.2 cm).
Signed, titled, dated, numbered 49/50 in pencil, copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the aluminum flush-mount.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $74,500


16 April 2010
New York