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  • Provenance

    Gifted from the artist; to Carmen Dell’Orefice

  • Literature

    Knopf/Callaway, Irving Penn: Passage, p. 22 for Cinderella

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I haven’t convinced myself I am the first person to live forever, but I am going to take a darn good stab at it.”
    -Carmen Dell’Orefice

    In recalling her foray into the world of modeling in 1944 at the age of 13, Carmen Dell’Orefice confides that her first professional photographs “were not successful. A letter came home from Harper’s Bazaar, [stating] that I was a charming child but at this moment, in my development, totally un-photogenic.” At the time, the world of modeling was still in its nascent stages, decades before it would turn into a multi-billion dollar bonanza whose practitioners were closely scrutinized and idolized. The disappointment, therefore, did not stem from the denial to enter a world of glamour and style, but rather from the denial to prove her relentless work ethic and unwavering discipline, one that Carmen had been exercising from her childhood, steeped in poverty. The only child of a professional dancer mother and a symphony violinist father, Carmen’s early years were marked by fierce independence and precocious maturity. Like her mother, the young Carmen vigorously pursued dance, and following a yearlong bout with rheumatic fever, moved to professional swimming, all the while attending school and contributing where she could to the household. Therefore, when the rejection letter from Harper’s Bazaar arrived, the driven teenager turned to her godparents and their friends for solace. As luck would have it, Carol Phillips, a staff-writer for Vogue at the time, was among those present.

    “Well,” commented Ms. Phillips, a visionary in her own right who would later found cosmetics giant Clinique, “I think she would be very photogenic, [and] I can’t imagine why the pictures didn’t turn out. Why don’t we bring her up to Vogue? ”The next day, to save on bus fare, Carmen made her way roller-skating to the Vogue offices, where she was photographed by Clifford Coffin. The next day she posed for Horst P. Horst, and it was shortly thereafter that the blooming teenager collaborated with other masters in photography, including Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, whose works are among the photographs offered in this section. By the time she turned 15, the lanky girl from Manhattan was photographed by Erwin Blumenfeld for the cover of Vogue, which would become the first of five covers for the magazine, and one of endless others that she would come to grace over an illustrious career whose end is invisible.

    The meteoric rise of Carmen in the fashion world coincided with the booming of the publishing industry and improvements in mass-printing, both of which facilitated the reproduction of photographic images in newspapers, and, in turn, engendered a growing demand for models in commercial and editorial work. Carmen’s success, however, was not merely circumstantial, as the young model was determined to learn from the best. Recalling her experience with the leading photographers of the 1940s and 1950s, she says, “their aesthetic development was so classical and so refined… so I picked up by osmosis their taste, their sense of how to put things together, how to think about what was going on. I was part of their imagination, I was part of something I couldn’t see but I could feel.” The synthesis of model and photographer is wondrously apparent in the works offered in the current selection. In each of the photographs, the iconic supermodel offers a different pose— from whimsical and coy to stately and confident—but still exuding the timeless elegance and supreme polish that she had come to perfect. In each photograph viewers find Carmen effortlessly
    embodying the role, be it that of a fairytale heroine under Irving Penn’s lens (lot 194), a jet-setting socialite in Jerry Schatzberg’s photograph (lot 196), or an irresistible Parisian seductress through the eye of Richard Avedon (lots 200, 201, 204 and 205). “One of the reasons why I’ve enjoyed my career,” Carmen confesses, “is because it’s a playground for me to enjoy total fantasy.”

    Decades since she first began modeling, the woman dubbed ‘The World’s Oldest Supermodel’ reveals no signs of slowing down and continuously enjoys embodying different fantasies in each assignment. With an enviably structured face, flawless posture, bubbly charm, inimitable nobility and a trademark white mane, Carmen continues to grace fashion runways and advertising campaigns worldwide. When asked about her next step, Carmen jokingly quips “I better plan between now and a hundred,” then adding, “and when I get to [be] a hundred, then I will think about it some more.” Given her incredible achievements the past eighty-two years, no doubt the next twenty will be equally wondrous. We are also happy to include Carmen’s own musings on select images in this group.

    The photographs from the collection of Carmen offered herein, unless otherwise indicated in the cataloguing, are not signed.

  • 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

CARMEN: PHOTOGRAPHS OF A FASHION ICON

194

Cinderella, New York and Little Red Riding Hood, New York

1946
Two gelatin silver prints.
Each 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (24.1 x 19.1 cm)

Estimate
$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head, Photographs
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1245

Photographs

New York 30 September & 1 October 2013