Irving Penn (1917-2009)
These lots have been imported from outside the EU … Read more
Irving Penn (1917-2009)

Cigarette No. 37, New York

Irving Penn (1917-2009)
Cigarette No. 37, New York
platinum-palladium prints, in four parts
signed, numbered and dated in pencil (verso); annotated with ink & pencil (verso)
each image/sheet: 25 ½ x 20in. (64.8 x 50.8cm.)
overall: 59 ½ x 44 ½in. (151.1 x 113cm.)
Photographed in 1972 and printed between 1972 – 1977, this work is number forty-six from an edition of seventy, of which eleven are in a four-part format

Other works from this edition are in the collections of:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis;
The Museum of Modern Art, New York;
The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C..
Pace MacGill Gallery, New York.
Baroness Marion Lambert, Geneva.
Anon. sale, Christie's New York, 13 October 1992, lot 590.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
N. Callaway (ed.), Irving Penn: Passage, A Work Record, London 1991 (four-part format illustrated, p. 203).
I. Penn, Still Life, Boston 2001 (another from the edition illustrated, p. 55).
R. Avedon (ed.), Eye of the Beholder: Photographs from the Collection of Richard Avedon, San Francisco 2006 (another from the edition illustrated, unpaged).
Irving Penn: Cigarettes, exh cat., London, Hamiltons Gallery, 2012, p. 54 (four-part format illustrated, pp. 2 and 54; single format illustrated, pp. 17 and 55).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Irving Penn, 1975 (another from the edition exhibited).
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Irving Penn, 1984, pl. 118 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, unpaged).
Washington, D. C., National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery, Irving Penn: Master Images: The Collections of the National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery, 1990, p. 81, no. 46 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 59).
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Irving Penn: Centennial, 2017 (another from the edition exhibited; illustrated, p. 249). This exhibition later travelled to Saõ Paulo, Instituto Moreira Salles (IMS Paulista).
Special notice
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

Brought to you by

Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

‘As the show moves along, it retraces a brilliant, productive career of nearly 70 years, revealing the unwavering consistency of a vision fixed on form and beauty in their many guises: extensive fashion work for Vogue; portraits of cultural luminaries and tradesmen, as well as of indigenous Peruvians and New Guinean tribesmen; nearly abstract close-ups of overly voluptuous nudes; and colossal cigarette butts magnified to suggest Roman columns, tombstones and even corpses.’


Over a career that spanned seven decades, Irving Penn became known as a photographer of overwhelming beauty and oversized talent. His work in the fashion and editorial world was legendary, and deservedly so. He spent his days directing, staging and photographing the world’s most beautiful models and some of society’s most important creative geniuses.

Penn cut his teeth in the magazine world as an assistant to the legendary Alexey Brodovitch at Harper's Bazaar, and went on to become one of Vogue’s most celebrated photographers. It was something of a surprise then when, in the early 1970s, Penn showed John Szarkoski at The Museum of Modern Art a set of pictures of garbage.

The artist had collected the refuse and detritus of New York City streets in order to photograph it in his spotless studio. In 1972, the artist asked a studio assistant to collect some discarded cigarette butts from the streets. Three separate outings were made and hundreds of cigarette butts were collected. Using an 8x10 inch view camera and lenses intended for extreme close-ups, Penn made fifty images; only twenty-three were ultimately chosen to be printed. The Cigarettes series was the first series exclusively printed in platinum (Irving Penn: Cigarettes, Hamiltons Gallery, London, 2012, p. 54)

“Graphic and photographic beauty are not surprising qualities in the work of Irving Penn,” Szarkowski wrote in 1975 in his introductory text to the exhibition of Penn’s photographs of cigarettes at The Museum of Modern Art. “The capricious and frankly inconsequential nature of the nominal subject matter, in conjunction with its ambitious and enormously sophisticated handling, constitute a clear statement of intention: these photographs can be considered only as works of art.”

Of the twenty-three images in the series, Cigarette No. 37, the work you see here, is one of only three images that Penn decided to print greatly enlarged as a four-panel mounted platinum print. As such, it holds an elevated position within the overall body of work, and has graced the walls of numerous museum walls.

More from Masterpieces of Design and Photography

View All
View All