Irving Penn - Photographs London Wednesday, May 18, 2011 | Phillips

Create your first list.

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

  • Provenance

    Private Collection, UK

  • Literature

    J. Szarkowski, Irving Penn, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1984, pl. 55

  • Catalogue Essay

    Jean Patchett was the model who is said to have embodied the 1950s. She was part of the group of the most desirable models of the day, and who, like her peers Suzy Parker, Evelyn Tripp, Dorian Leigh and Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn, all possessed an enigmatic quality pliable enough to be positioned, posed and captured by the then current photographic legends.

    Irving Penn described his images not as photographs but as ‘Beatitudes’ – perhaps epiphanies would be more appropriate, as neither religious iconography nor historical context are present. If there was a type of ‘religion’ Penn followed unconditionally, it was his need for effortless simplicity – that of a stark arena stripped back to expose so brilliantly, almost viscerally, the meeting of style and form.

    In this present, lot the model has been elevated from her role as a still-life component to becoming the central, dominant aspect of the image. She looks steadfastly through her creator and is the bastion onto which Penn could affix all his technical ambitions and wishes. As in the early Vogue portraits, he becomes again interested in the cloth of the dress and the folds in the rose-like handkerchief, we can see and touch the texture of the background but somehow it provides no intrusive discourse with the main subject. The model is isolated and seemingly without personality. Instead, she is a vessel for Penn’s alchemy and fastidious positioning. She isn’t free but purposefully shackled by obsessive calculation. As with many of Penn’s portraits, we can layer them with our gaze, they do not jade us as their pictorial style escapes time’s erosion.

  • 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


Woman with Handkerchief (Jean Patchett), New York

Selenium-toned gelatin silver print, printed 1984.
33.3 x 33.3 cm (13 1/8 x 13 1/8 in).
Signed, titled, dated in ink, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the flush-mount. One from an edition of 16.

£20,000 - 25,000 


19 May 2011