Photo Of The Day

Photo/RICHARD AVEDON Cirque d'Hiver, Paris 1955 This photograph “Dovima with Elephants,” featured the first evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent, then a young assistant to Christian Dior. It remains one of the most anthologized of fashion photographs.

Photo/RICHARD AVEDON
Cirque d’Hiver, Paris 1955
This photograph “Dovima with Elephants,” featured the first evening dress designed by Yves Saint Laurent, then a young assistant to Christian Dior. It remains one of the most anthologized of fashion photographs.

Dovima with the Elephants

It could be said that Dovima, for whom the term ‘supermodel’ was coined, made a name for herself — literally, she was one of the fashion world’s original supermodels. Born Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba, she took the first two letters of her three given names. Not just that, she also perpetuated that the notion of vacuous blondes. In Egypt, I asked her what she thought of Africa, she replied, “Africa? Who said anything about Africa? This is Egypt.” When it was explained that Egypt was in Africa, she replied, “I should have charged double rate!” On the same shoot, she brought along a large trunk that the photographer Richard Avedon assumed was filled with clothes. When he asked Dovima about the trunk, she told him they were her books. Avedon didn’t want to separate the girl from her books, so they lugged the trunk across the desert only to find out they were her comic books.

While Dovima found great success as a model, her love life was less so. Her second husband, Alan Murray, with whom she had a daughter Alison, often beat her so severely that she could not show up for bookings. The model Carmen Dell’Orefice confirmed that “Sadly she could only be with men who beat her. I’d find her on my doorstep black and blue and I’d take her in to live with me.” Escaping Murray for Los Angeles in pursuit of an acting career, Dovima ultimately divorced him but lost custody of her daughter.

Avedon admired her as “the last of the great elegant, aristocratic beauties… the most remarkable and unconventional beauty of her time”. For him, she posed in many photographs that came to be the most iconic fashion images of the century. The above picture,”Dovima with the Elephants” was taken by Avedon at the Cirque d’hiver, Paris, in August 1955. The dress was the first evening dress designed for Christian Dior by his new assistant, Yves Saint-Laurent.

Dramatic juxtaposition between diaphanous grace and brutish power was achieved by the symmetry between elephants and Dovima, and underlined by the dirty elephants and the clean, elegant model, the rough elephant skin and the smooth fabric of the dress, as well as by gray sprightly but chained elephants and clear-cut and flowing black and white dress. Yet, Avedon was unsatisfied; for the picture, he lamented that, “the sash isn’t right. It should have echoed the outside leg of the elephant to Dovima’s right.” The photo was conspicuously absent Avedon’s seminal photobook, An Autobiography.

Two contrasting studies of Dovima were published by Harper’s Bazaar. The photograph of Dovima in black was reprinted many times but the image of Dovima in white was printed only once and the negative no longer exists. “It disappeared mysteriously,” Avedon said. Dovima, too, disappeared. Always insecure about her looks, she left modeling in 1962, saying,”I didn’t want to wait until the camera turned cruel”. The woman who earned merely $60 per hour even at the height of her career ended her life working as a waitress in Florida. It was a tragic final act more damning of modern extravagances of fashion than of a simpler, quieter era she represented.

She died in 1990 at the age of 63.

More photos

http://devorahmacdonald.blogspot.co.nz/2011/07/mid-century-supermodel-dovima.html


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