Irving Penn's Mouth (For L'Oreal) headlines photography sale

Irving Penn's Mouth (For L'Oreal), New York has topped a photography auction in London.

The 1986 work made £221,000 ($322,218) in the May 19 sale at Sotheby's.

Irving Penn mouth
Irving Penn's career spanned close to 70 years

Penn is credited with transforming fashion photography into high art in the 1940s with his modernist approach to the form.

Born in 1917, he continued to work into the late 1980s.

The auction house comments: "Rarely seen at auction, Irving Penn's breath-taking Mouth (For L'Oreal), New York commanded the top price, selling for £221,000.

"His portrayal of female lips marks a legacy of timelessly elegant photographs which captured an unexpected and surreal beauty."

The sale included work from other high profile fashion photographers such as Richard Avedon, whose iconic Marilyn Monroe, Actress, New York City (1957) made £77,500 ($112,995).

The work beat an estimate of £50,000 ($72,900) by 55%.

Marilyn Monroe
The candid shot was taken after a party

Avedon explained how he got the shot at a party: "For hours she danced and sang and flirted and did this thing that's — she did Marilyn Monroe.

"And then there was the inevitable drop. And when the night was over and the white wine was over and the dancing was over, she sat in the corner like a child, with everything gone.

"I saw her sitting quietly without expression on her face, and I walked towards her but I wouldn't photograph her without her knowledge of it.

"And as I came with the camera, I saw that she was not saying no."

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