Dovima with Elephants
‘Dovima with Elephants’ is a photograph made by Richard Avedon in 1955. Sold in 2010 for $1,151,976, it is currently the eighth most expensive photograph sold at auction. The photographer
Richard Avedon (1923-2004) was an American photographer. US newspaper The New York Times described his work as having “helped define America's image of style, beauty and culture for the last half-century.” He photographed a variety of subjects, including fashion models for Vogue magazine and Life magazine, musicians (most notably, the Beatles), and members of the public, including “drifters, carnival workers, and working class Americans”.
Taken at the Cirque d’hiver, Paris, in August 1955, the photograph depicts 50s supermodel Dovima (Dorothy Margaret Virginia Juba) posing between two elephants.
Features of interest include “[t]he symmetry between the two elephants and Dovima” and the fact that “the image … contrasted the dirty elephants and the clean, elegant model, the rough elephant skin and the smooth fabric of the dress”.
Grazia commented that “[t]he photograph came to epitomize the power of fashion to transport and transform”. Matthieu Humery of Christie’s stated that the photograph was “a kind of national treasure, with references to the Cirque d’Hiver and Christian Dior.”
The photograph is also notable for the dress worn by Dovima, which was “the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, |Yves Saint-Laurent.”
On 20th November 2010, a print of ‘Dovima with Elephants’ sold for $1,151,976 at Christie’s, Paris, above the estimated price of $500-800,000. The gelatin silver print, mounted on linen and measuring 216.8 by 166.7cm, was purchased by the Christian Dior Design House.
The sale was a record for Avedon at auction and “is the most expensive photograph of [its] kind to have been sold in France”. ‘Dovima with Elephants’ was one of 65 Avedon works sold in the auction, with proceeds going to the Avedon Foundation.