Irving Penn, ‘Bee on Lips, New York’, 1995, Phillips


This image was realised only as a dye transfer print in an edition of 11.

Image: 40.5 x 57.1 cm (15 7/8 x 22 1/2 in)
Sheet: 49 x 58.7 cm (19 1/4 x 23 1/8 in.)

From the Catalogue:
‘He changed the way we saw the world and our perception of what is beautiful.’

Anna Wintour

‘For this picture, we had to fly a bee keeper from New Mexico. Bees become docile and harmless when cold, and our bee keeper knew the exact temperature for this state of induced hibernation – he put them in the fridge. Penn remembered that “Bee Stung Lips” had been a popular expression in the 1950s to characterise full, pouty lips. So in 1995, when women started having collagen injected to make their lips fuller, he thought using this idea was a perfect illustration for the Vogue article. Our first task was to find a brave model who had no insect phobias. Estella Warren was fearless and she posed patiently while our wrangler placed one bee after another on her lips. From behind his camera, Penn gave instructions: first he asked her to close her mouth, then open it a little, then a little more. We tried many different bees and Estella made different shapes with her mouth. In fact, she became very playful, and at one point, stuck her tongue out and flicked a bee onto it. When a bee began to warm up under the studio lights, the wrangler quickly substituted a colder one. No photographer or editor or bee was harmed during the shoot. At the end of the day, our bee keeper calmly packed up his colony and took them back home to New Mexico.’

Phyllis Posnick
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: Signed, initialled, titled, dated in pencil, Condé Nast copyright credit reproduction limitation, credit and edition stamps on the verso.

The Lip Fix', Vogue US, December 1995, pp. 306-307, variant
P. Posnick, E. Respini, Extreme Beauty in Vogue, Skira, 2009, n.p.
P. Posnick, Stoppers: Photographs from My Life at Vogue, Abrams, 2016, pp. 202-203, variant, to be published November 2016

Private Collection, Europe

About Irving Penn

Considered one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century, Irving Penn photographed a host of important writers, visual artists, and cultural figures in his lifetime (including Jasper Johns, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, John Cage, Truman Capote, and Louise Bourgeois) as well as producing images for Vogue, Chanel, and other major fashion mainstays. Known for his pared-down compositional style, Penn often photographed his subjects in the natural light of the studio using minimal props; his fashion images were marked by their austerity, sophistication, and tonal subtleties. Penn also photographed workers his series “Small Trades” (1950–51), depicting laborers in New York, Paris, and London posed in work clothes and holding the tools of their trade. Caught in both black and white and color, Penn’s iconic images are known for the honesty and humanity he brought to his subjects.

American, 1917-2009, Plainfield, New Jersey, based in New York, New York

Solo Shows

Masters Projects, 
Irving Penn: Women, Warriors
Irving Penn: Cranium Architecture
Irving Penn: Cigarettes

Group Shows

San Francisco,
David + Goliath
View Artist's CV