- Berenice Abbott
- jean cocteau's hands, paris
- 6 by 8 in. (15.2 by 20.3 cm.)
Brent Sikkema Fine Art, New York
Acquired by the Quillan Company from the above, 1989
Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Stationen der Moderne, 1988
Jill Quasha, The Quillan Collection of Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Photographs (New York, 1991), pl. 47 (this print)
Other prints of this image:
Film und Foto de zwanziger Jahre (Stuttgart, 1979), pl. 131
Berenice Abbott, Photographer: A Modern Vision (The New York Public Library, 1989, in conjunction with the exhibition), pl. 5
Berenice Abbott, Berenice Abbott: Photographs (New York, 1970), p. 19
John Szarkowski, The Photographer's Eye (The Museum of Modern Art, 1966), p. 49
Berenice Abbott encountered Jean Cocteau in Paris in the 1920s, and collaborated with him on some of the most creative portraits of her career. A head-and-shoulders pose soon led to studies of Cocteau in trench coat and hat, aiming a pistol; Cocteau's hands on a mask; Cocteau and a mask in bed; and the photograph of Cocteau's elegant hands offered here. 'His hands were extremely expressive,' Abbott said (quoted in Hank O'Neal, Berenice Abbott: American Photographer, p. 51). Along with Man Ray, Berenice Abbott was one of the portrait photographers of choice for a select group of artists, writers, and the well-to-do of Paris in the early twentieth century, and she produced direct and engaging pictures of James Joyce, Janet Flanner, Peggy Guggenheim, André Gide, and Edna St. Vincent Millay, among many others. In 1926, at the Au Sacre du Printemps gallery, Abbott had her first one-person exhibition, all portraits, entitled Portraits Photographiques. Cocteau composed a poem for the occasion, printed in the show's invitation, which he also designed (ibid., p. 11).
In 1929, Abbott's work was included in the prestigious Film und Foto exhibition in Stuttgart, unusual for a photographer whose work, at that time, was almost exclusively portraits. The image of Cocteau's hands offered here was in that show.
In 1988, when the original Film und Foto show was recreated in Berlin, the present print was included.