Irving Penn’s “After Dinner Games”

Ah, the vanitas, a favorite theme for artists, where you have a still life with a strong connection to the ephemeral quality of life. Well, all still lifes carry that theme but some have it more than others–and Irving Penn had a master’s touch for such things.

For those of you who can afford it, here is an opportunity to own a rare early print of Penn’s work, “After Dinner Games, New York (1947).” It is quite satisfying, isn’t it? There are a number of games going on here and the end appears to be bittersweet.

From the press release:

I thought you might like to know that an extremely rare early print by Irving Penn is currently available on artnet Auctions. Rarely seen at auction, After Dinner Games, New York (1947) is only available until Tuesday, May 22, at 10:45 a.m. (EST).

This color photograph—one of an edition limited to 13 dye transfer prints of the  image made between 1959 and 1960—employs all the stylistic and formal devices that characterize Penn’s work. As is typical of his still lifes, the scene is composed of carefully, yet casually arranged food and found objects, which tell their own story through their physical and metaphorical autonomy. Like a Baroque vanitas, this work is laden with symbols that remind us of the transience of life; it says that we are all players in the game of life, an unpredictable game of risk and chance.

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