Lot 28
  • 28

DIANE ARBUS 'A Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, N. Y.'

50,000 - 70,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Diane Arbus
  • 'A Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, N. Y.'
  • Edition 33 of 50
  • Gelatin silver print
  • 15 1/8  by 15 1/8  in. (38.4 by 38.4 cm.)
a plate from A Box of Ten Photographs (New York, 1970), signed, titled, dated, and numbered '33/50' by Doon Arbus, the photographer's daughter, in ink and with the portfolio and Arbus Estate reproduction rights stamps on the reverse, framed, a Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and exhibition labels on the reverse, 1970, printed in the early 1970s by Neil Selkirk


Christie's New York, 17 October 2006, Sale 1713, Lot 45


San Diego, Museum of Photographic Arts, Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, October - December 2005

Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art, Stare: The Pleasure of the Intensely Familiar and the Strangely Unexpected, December 2010 - March 2011

NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Diane Arbus, November 2012 - June 2013


'Five Photographs by Diane Arbus,' Artforum, May 1971, p. 65

Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972), unpaginated

Photography/Venice '79 (New York, 1979)p. 341

Diane Arbus: Revelations (New York, 2003), pp. 209 and 300-1

Catalogue Note

The Hirsch collection includes some of the most recognizable and important photographs by Diane Arbus.  When selecting images for her only portfolio, A Box of Ten Photographs (1970), Arbus chose A Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in the Bronx, N. Y. (Lot 28), Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey (Lot 32), Mexican Dwarf in his Hotel Room, N. Y. C. (Lot 30), and Boy in Straw Hat Waiting to March in a Pro-War Parade, N. Y. C. (Lot 31) to be featured as representative of her achievement in photography.  These four photographs were also chosen the following year by Philip Leder for feature in the seminal May 1971 issue of Artforum.  The photographs by Diane Arbus in the Hirsch collection encapsulate the major themes in Arbus's work: her fascinations with aberrance, conformity, family and identity. 

By the time Arbus made A Jewish Giant at Home with his Parents in the Bronx, N. Y., she had known Eddie Carmel (1935–1972) for a decade, having first photographed him in 1960 at Hubert's Dime Museum and Flea Circus in Times Square.  He worked for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1961 to 1968, where he was ‘The Tallest Man on Earth’ and ‘The World’s Greatest Giant,’ erroneously billed at over 9 feet tall and weighing more than 500 pounds.  Carmel was somewhat famous, having appeared in B-movies, such as The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962) and 50,000 B.C. (Before Clothes) (1963), and recorded two 45rpm singles: The Happy Giant and The Good Monster. 

Born Oded Ha-Carmeili in Tel Aviv to American-immigrant parents, Carmel’s gigantism began affecting his growth in his teens, caused by acromegaly, a glandular disorder.  By 1970, the condition had caused an extreme curvature in his spine and he required the canes visible in Arbus’s photograph to stand.  While Arbus was initially drawn to Carmel by his abnormality, her photograph moves past this fact to focus on family, his humanity, and the difficult reality of his situation.  Deteriorating health forced Carmel to live with his parents, whose lives in turn were limited by the responsibility of caring for their son.  The strained relationship between Carmel and his father, who did not approve of his Circus work, is painfully apparent in Arbus’s photograph.  With its insertion of ordinary persons trapped in an extraordinary situation, this image illustrates Arbus’s unique talent for creating meaningful photographs from unlikely characters.