Lot 175
  • 175

Diane Arbus 1923-1971

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  • Diane Arbus
  • 'a jewish giant at home with his parents in the bronx, n. y.'

signed, dated, and numbered by the photographer's daughter, Doon Arbus, in ink, and with the 'A Diane Arbus print, Doon Arbus administrator,' and Arbus Estate copyright and reproduction rights stamps on the reverse, matted, framed, 1970; accompanied by a typed letter of authentication signed by Doon Arbus, 1983


Acquired by the present owner from the Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1993


Other prints of this image:

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

Diane Arbus (Aperture, 1972, in conjunction with retrospective exhibition originating at The Museum of Modern Art, New York), unpaginated

Diane Arbus: Revelations (New York: 2003, in conjunction with the exhibition originating at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art), pp. 209 and 300-1

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

Catalogue Note

By the time Arbus made A Jewish Giant at Home with his Parents in the Bronx, N. Y., she had known its subject, Eddie Carmel, for a number of years.  Carmel (1935 – 1972) was somewhat of a celebrity, having appeared in B-movies, such as The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962) and 50,000 B.C. (Before Clothes) (1963), and having recorded two 45rpm singles: The Happy Giant and The Good Monster.  He worked for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1961 to 1968, where he was billed as The Tallest Man on Earth and The World’s Greatest Giant.  Carmel’s abnormal height was caused by a glandular disorder which began affecting his growth in his teens.  By 1970, the condition had caused the curvature in his spine that is visible in Arbus’s photograph.  While Arbus was initially drawn to Carmel by his abnormality, her photograph moves past this fact to focus on his humanity, and the difficult reality of his situation.  The image embodies two of Arbus’s most potent themes: aberrance, and the family.  

When selecting images for her only portfolio, A Box of Ten Photographs, Arbus chose Jewish Giant to be included with nine other photographs which she felt served as a statement of her achievement in photography.  Also during Arbus’s lifetime, the image was chosen by Philip Leider, editor of Artforum, as one of five Arbus photographs reproduced in that magazine’s May 1971 issue.  With its insertion of an extraordinary person – Eddie Carmel, the jewish giant – into the drab interior of a Bronx living room, this image illustrates Arbus’s unique talent for creating meaningful photographs with unlikely elements.