View full screen - View 1 of Lot 42. Dovima with elephants, Evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955.

Richard Avedon

Dovima with elephants, Evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955

Lot Closed

June 13, 02:42 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 GBP

Lot Details


Richard Avedon

1923 - 2004

Dovima with elephants, Evening dress by Dior, Cirque d'Hiver, Paris, August 1955

gelatin silver print, signed and editioned '15/100' in pencil and with the photographer's title, edition, and copyright stamps on the reverse, framed, 1955, printed later

image: 25.4 by 20 cm (10 by 7⅞ in.)

frame: 54.5 by 49.8 cm (21½ by 19⅝ in.)

Acquired circa 2000

By descent to the present owner

Harper's Bazaar, September 1955, p. 215 

Avedon Photographs: 1947-1977 (New York, 1978), pl. 159 and back cover

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

Richard Avedon: Made in France (San Francisco, 2002), unpaginated

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. 137 and 172-3 (variants)

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

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

David Bailey and Martin Harrison, Shots of Style: Great Fashion Portraits Chosen by David Bailey (London, 1986), cat. no. 7

Martin Harrison, Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945 (New York, 1991). p. 73

Anthony T. Mazzola, ed., 125 Great Moments of Harper's Bazaar: A Commemorative Collection of Outstanding Photographs (New York, 1993), cover and pl. 3

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

Ingrid Sischy et al., Chorus of Light: Photographs from the Sir Elton John Collection (Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2000), p. 189

Harold Koda, The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009), p. 50

20th Century Photography (Cologne: Museum Ludwig, 2012), p. 29

Quentin Bajac et al., eds., Photography at MoMA: 1920 - 1960 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2016), pls. 274 and 276

Paul Martineau, Icons of Style: A Century of Fashion Photography (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018), pl. 111

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 – modelled 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 rarefied 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.