Irving Penn - Photographs London Tuesday, May 7, 2013 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Private Collection, Europe

  • Literature

    Irving Penn: Still Life, London: Thames & Hudson, 2001, n.p. (variant)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Fantastical, surreal, unreal, erotic and technically awe-inspiring are all words which may spring to mind when gazing on Irving Penn’s sumptuous Bee on Lips, New York, September 22, 1995.

    Penn’s what could be described as ‘fashionation’ of an image is beautifully embodied in this work. He naturally composes an image of substantial resonance crafted from his sense of beauty, he creates a philosophical and sublime projection instead of what could so easily be a superficial comment. So immaculate and so pristine is the detail throughout the image; the model’s eloquently lined crimson lips combined with the velvety texture of the fluffy bee is instantly beguiling.

    As could often be said of Penn’s work, either the genre of ‘Portrait’ or ‘Still-life’ as label could suffice. However, the word ‘Portrait’ could suggest more control coming from the subject whereas here there is a definite feeling of Penn at his most detailed, his most demanding, his most controlling.

    Apart from the electric beauty literally buzzing from the image there is also a strange under-current of noir – association with the darker side of surrealism and an aura of potential horror.

  • 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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Bee on Lips, New York, September 22

Dye transfer print, printed 1999.
40.4 x 57.1 cm (15 7/8 x 22 1/2 in)
Signed, titled, dated, initialled in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation, credit and edition stamps on the verso. One from an edition of 11.

£50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for £98,500

Contact Specialist
Lou Proud
Head of Photographs, London
+ 44 207 318 4092


London 8 May 2013 4pm