Irving Penn’s ‘Cuzco Childen’

March 7, 2012

Cuzco Children,1948, 50.2 x 52.1cm, Platinum-Palladium Print, Flush-Mounted on Aluminium, printed 1977.

One of Irving Penn’s most well known and endearing images is Cuzco Children which he photographed in 1948. It has an interesting back story to say the least, perhaps thats what makes it so valuable, four years ago it was sold at auction for $520,000.

Writing in the French newspaper the National Observateur in 1978 , Brion Gysin revealed the whole truth about the image for the first time. Translated from French by Philip Heyring, Brion states that the people in the photograph are

So immensely rich that the tabloid press does not have the right to cover their story. They pay a high price to remain unknown to the whole world, only too happy to leave the absurd title as the richest couple in the world to others much less fortunate then them. As descendants of the Incas, Sons of the Sun, they are not in need of publicity.He is the greatest collector of things so rare they have no price. He makes only the best deals in paying two times nothing for inestimable treasures that people who pass for patrons of the arts cannot acquire. Although she never wears jewels because of her simplicity and her small size, she adores the greatest designers……..’

A most curios review of the subjects in question, an expanded version is reprinted in ‘A Notebook at Random (Bulfinch Press, 2005)’, however I am sure there is a more detailed translation of the text, it would be most interesting to find this, if anyone knows how it can be obtained, please do contact me. Below shows a platinum test fragment of the couple which is also featured in this wondefully illustrated book.

Cuzco Children, Platinum test fragment,1978. (From A Notebook a Random, Irving Penn,2004,Bulfinch Press)

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