Irving Penn - Photographs London Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Pace MacGill Gallery, New York
    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    Vogue (USA), January 1952, pp. 132-133
    N. Hall-Duncan, The History of Fashion Photography, Alpine Book Co., 1979, p. 146
    M. Forest, W. Stapp, Irving Penn: Master Images, Smithsonian Institute Press, 1994, p. 42, pl. 29
    M. Harrison, D. Seidner, Lisa Fonssagrives: Three Decades of Classic Fashion Photography, Thames & Hudson, 1996, p.10
    C. Westerbeck, Irving Penn: A Career in Photography, Art Institute of Chicago, 1997, p. 73, pl. 24
    Irving Penn - A notebook at random, New York: Bulfinch, 2004, p. 103 there titled 'Mint Tea in a Moroccan Palace’

  • Catalogue Essay

    Lisa Fonssagrives has become one of the most recognised and admired models of the 20th century. Referred to as “a muse, a chameleon”, she collaborated with the photographic greats of her time such as George Hoyningen-Huene, Man Ray, Horst P. Horst, Erwin Blumenfeld and Richard Avedon. She also married two of them, her first husband being Fernand Fonssagrives and her second, Irving Penn.

    Penn was thirty-four when he took this photograph of his wife in Morocco. It was subsequently published in American Vogue as part of the feature ‘Moroccan Handbook’, a travel story for the January 1952 issue. Because of the square format of the photograph made on a Rolleiflex camera, the image took over one-and-a-half pages of the article’s allocated four pages. Dominating the article in this way, the image confronted the viewer with a portrait, a still life and an interior all at once.

    In this work, we see the fusion of Penn’s knowledge of art history (the odalisques of Ingres and Delacroix or perhaps Matisse) and his relationship with Lisa, which enhances and informs the image. The pair had a unique and sizzling chemistry which, as some have commented, “burned on the page”; the images conjured by Penn were very much a partnership with his wife. “She taught me so much,” he has said, “and not just about fashion”. Thus what they created together, according to Penn, was “more substantial than either of us”.

    This photograph is among the very last that Penn would take outdoors and apart from two other Vogue covers it was the last time that he photographed his wife for editorial use. The crisp line, impeccable clarity and rich tonality, combined with the placement of the main focus and objects in the style of Orientalist painting, produced a suitable homage to what one assumes were the greatest loves and concerns of his life: Lisa and the genre of 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. 

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Woman in Palace (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), Marrakech, Morocco

Selenium-toned gelatin silver print, printed 1992.
39.2 × 38.6 cm (15 3/8 × 15 1/4 in)
Signed, titled, dated, annotated 'Print made 1992' in ink and Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation and edition stamps on the reverse of the mount. One from an edition of 40.

£60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for £99,650


17 May 2012