Irving Penn - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'It is perhaps not too much to say that in Penn’s prints the descriptive resources of the photographic gray scale have never been more fully exploited.'
    —John Szarkowski

    Beginning in 1964, Irving Penn began experimenting with platinum printing. Penn had spent his career up to that point making photographs which were seen almost exclusively in reproduction within the glossy pages of magazines and in his pivotal 1960 book Moments Preserved. Penn set himself the challenge of producing photographic prints that would surpass the technical limitations of reprographic media and deliver a deeper visual experience. He was drawn to the antiquated platinum process for its long gray scale – its ability to display a seemingly infinite array of gradations between pure white and absolute black.


    The platinum process requires direct contact with the negative, without enlargement, so Penn first needed to create flawless negatives the same size as the desired print. He then hand-coated paper with platinum emulsion. When dry, the paper was sandwiched with the negative and exposed to light before processing. Rigorous experimentation revealed that recoating a print with a secondary emulsion and making a second or third exposure of the same image on a single sheet of paper yielded prints of greater depth and subtlety. Penn solved the problem of aligning and re-aligning the negative and the print surface over multiple exposures by borrowing a technique from the graphic arts: he mounted his paper on a sheet of aluminum with a series of registration guides along the top edge. Penn was guarded about the preparation of his emulsions and his precise formulations varied considerably. He frequently introduced palladium and iron salts into his coatings to achieve desired effects.


    This photograph comes from Penn’s Street Material series, begin in 1975, in which he aimed his camera at the detritus of the city streets, such as the discarded glove seen in the present photograph. The resulting platinum-palladium prints are transcendent in the true sense of the word, rising above their lowly origins into the realm of aesthetic perfection.

    • Provenance

      Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, New York, 18 October 2003, lot 101

    • Literature

      Penn, Passage: A Work Record, p. 220
      Szarkowski, Irving Penn, pl. 125
      Szarkowski, Still Life: Irving Penn Photographs 1938 - 2000, n.p.
      Westerbeck, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, pl. 30

    • 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


Flat Glove, New York

Platinum-palladium print.
30 x 22 1/2 in. (76.2 x 57.2 cm)
Overall 32 x 24 3/4 in. (81.3 x 62.9 cm)

Signed, titled, dated and annotated in pencil with stamps on the verso. Number 2 from an edition of 53.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs, New York

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 12 October 2022