Richard Avedon’s iconic Dovima with Elephants image, captured in 1955 at the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris and featuring supermodel-before-the-term-was-even-coined Dovima in a Christian Dior evening gown designed by Monsieur Dior’s young new assistant, Yves Saint Laurent, fetched a record-breaking $1.1 million at auction last night. The winning bidder? None other that the house of Dior, of course, which means that the seven-foot-tall print, the largest of one of the most celebrated in fashion history, is returning home! ‘It is the most expensive photograph of this kind to have been sold in France,’ said Christie’s that auctioned 65 works from the legendary photographer who died in 2004. The proceeds are going to The Richard Avedon Foundation in New York.
Avedon himself called Dovima, ‘the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time’ and kept a critical eye on his most famous creation even towards the end of his life. He told a journalist at the opening of an exhibition of his work, ‘the sash isn't right. It should have echoed the outside leg of the elephant to Dovima's right.’ The photograph came to epitomize the power of fashion to transport and transform and there is no better example of this than Dovima herself. Born in a poor background in Queens, New York, she contracted rheumatic fever at the age of 10, spending the next seven years confined to her home before literally making a name for herself after being discovered by a Vogue editor. Dovima stands for the first two initials of her given name, Dorothy Virginia Margaret.
-- Kiki Georgiou