Lot 27
  • 27

RICHARD AVEDON | Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Richard Avedon
  • Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris
  • Projected edition of 50
  • Gelatin silver print, trimmed to image, flush-mounted to linen and tipped to larger mount
  • 51 1/2  by 41 in. (130.8 by 101.1 cm.)
large format, flush-mounted to linen, signed and editioned '32/50' in pencil and with title, date, edition and copyright/reproduction limitation stamps on the reverse, framed, 1955, printed later


Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, 2004


Harper's Bazaar, September 1955, p. 215 Avedon Photographs: 1947-1977 (New York, 1978), back cover and pl. 159

Richard Avedon: Evidence, 1944-1994 (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994), p. 53

Richard Avedon, Woman in the Mirror (New York, 2005), p. 37

Michael Juul Holm, ed., Richard Avedon - Photographs 1946-2004 (Humlebæk: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2007), p. 35

Carol Squiers, Vince Aletti, et al., Avedon Fashion 1944-2000: The Definitive Collection (New York: The International Center of Photography, 2009), p. 13 and 172-3

Nancy Hall-Duncan, The History of Fashion Photography (George Eastman House, 1979), p. 137

Helen Gee, Photography of the Fifties: An American Perspective (Tucson, 1984), p. 84

Keith F. Davis, An American Century of Photographs from Dry-Plate to Digital (The Hallmark Photographic Collection, 1999), p. 368

John P. O’Neill, Model as Muse (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009), p. 50


This print is in generally excellent condition.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Richard Avedon’s Dovima with Elephants, Evening Dress by Dior, Cirque d’Hiver, Paris, is a monument in the history of fashion and advertising photography.  No other fashion photograph of the 20th century is as widely-recognized and no other image illustrates as fully Richard Avedon’s profound gifts as a photographer of couture and of women.  In 1955, 32-year-old Richard Avedon was sent by Carmel Snow, the Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar, to Paris to photograph the fall couture collections.  A series of 15 photographs by the young photographer were selected to illustrate ‘Carmel Snow’s Paris Report,’ published in the magazine’s September 1955 issue (pp. 204-17).  The most famous photograph from this series is Dovima with Elephants, which received a full page illustration.

Of the 1955 couture collection, Snow wrote, ‘Dior’s Sinuous Evening Line is marked high, like an Empire silhouette, then flows supplely against the figure, narrowing as it goes . . . Dior puts long, tight sleeves on his grand décolleté dresses. Here, sleeved to the wrists: his black velvet sheath, sashed high under the bosom with a great streamer of white satin’ (Harper’s Bazaar, September 1955, p. 214).  The dress Snow described – modeled in the present photograph by Dovima – was the first to be designed by Christian Dior’s 19-year-old protégé and eventual successor, Yves Saint Laurent. 

Hailed by Richard Avedon as ‘the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time,’ Dovima was the quintessential model of the 1950s, representing the rarified elegance of the period with her lithe figure, long limbs, wide-set eyes, and clever Mona Lisa smile.  Born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba in Queens, New York, Dovima was discovered on the streets of Manhattan in 1949.  She quickly became one of the highest paid models of her period, later nicknamed ‘The Dollar a Minute Girl’ by commanding $60 an hour.  Although she posed for many notable photographers, including Irving Penn, Horst P. Horst, and Erwin Blumenfeld, it was her relationship with Avedon that was strongest and it was his portraiture that solidified her reputation for eternity.  Of Avedon, Dovima said ‘We became like mental Siamese twins, with me knowing what he wanted before he explained it. He asked me to do extraordinary things, but I always knew I was going to be part of a great picture.’

The brilliant juxtaposition of the classically elegant Dovima with the towering rough forms of elephants is as revolutionary today as when it was first published in 1955.  With this photograph, Avedon set a standard for inventiveness in fashion photography that has not been surpassed in the intervening years.