May 27, 1948
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.3 x 19.6 cm (9 9/16 x 7 11/16 in.); Paper: 25.4 x 20.3 cm (10 x 8 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 in.)
Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1998.177
© Condé Nast Publications
Irving Penn's portraits from the late 1940s are the foundation of his reputation as one of the major portraitists of the post-World War II era. His distinctive approach involves the elimination of all unnecessary distractions in order to emphasize the sitter alone by concentrating on the face, gesture, posture, and attire. In the "corner portraits," commissioned by Vogue in 1948, Penn placed his subjects in the center of a narrow triangular space he created in his studio. To a great degree, the subjects posed themselves. The portraits reflect his sitters' responses to the psychological and physical consequences of being confined. In this remarkable image the Duchess of Windsor appears to be stepping out of the pages of Vogue. She stands confidently, eyes focused on the camera, her posture and facial expression powerfully conveying a sense of dignified grandeur.
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