Irving Penn
American, 1917–2009

Still Life with Mouse, New York, 1947

Gelatin silver print, edition of 78
24.6 x 18.8 cm (image); 25.3 x 20.3 cm (paper)
Inscribed verso: “STILL LIFE (WITH MOUSE) / NEW YORK, 1942 [in a box]”; stamped and inscribed verso: “PHOTOGRAPH BY IRVING PENN / Copyright © 1983 by Irving Penn, COURTESY OF VOGUE / Not to be reproduced without / written permission of the copyright owner and / THE CONDE NAST PUBLICATIONS INC.”; inscribed verso: “13590 P1”; stamped and inscribed verso: “SIGLED, SILVER PRINTS OF THIS NEGATIVE NOT EXCEEDING 78.”; inscribed verso: “REF. 7110”; signed and stamped verso: “Irving Penn / IRVING PENN [in a circle]”; inscribed verso: “Print made c. 1947. / IP:”
Gift of Irving Penn, 1996.163

Copyright The Irving Penn Foundation

Still Life with Mouse, New York

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In a career that spanned almost 70 years, Irving Penn produced groundbreaking work in the overlapping industries of fashion and fine–art photography. Still life played a central role for Penn, from his very first cover for Vogue in 1943 (an image of an arrangement of fashion accessories) to photographs made near the end of his life of vessels that he and his wife, Lisa Fonssagrives–Penn, had collected during their travels. An homage to the domestic interiors of 17th–century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, Still Life with Mouse is one such early example of Penn’s interest in the still–life genre. Vogue art director Alexander Liberman asked Penn to compose “the most symbolic picture of a farm kitchen” for a January 1948 “farm” issue of House and Garden. The published image was a cropped version of this photograph, in color, that included a model seated at left.

— Permanent collection label

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, “Irving Penn, A Career in Photography,” November 22, 1997–February 1, 1998; traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, State Hermitage Museum, March 1–May 16, 1998; Hamburg, Germany, Deichtorhallen, June 18–September 6, 1998; Munich, Germany, Müchner Stadtmuseum, October 6, 1998–February 21, 1999; San Francisco, California, Friends of Photography/Ansel Adams Center for Photography, November 11, 1999–January 23, 2000; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, March 25–June 4, 2000; Paris, France, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, September 13–November 5, 2000. (Colin Westerbeck)

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Gallery 10 Permanent Collection Rotation, May 2-November 1, 2015.

Publication History

Liberman, Alexander. 1951. “The Art and Technique of Color Photography.” Simon and Schuster. p. 14, cat. 14. (other print of this image/variant in color)

Szarkowski, John. 1984. "Irving Penn." Exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art/New York Graphic Society Books. pl. 74. (other print of this image/published as “Vermeer Still Life (with Mouse”)

Penn, Irving. 1991. "Passage: A Work Record." Knopf. p. 31. (other print of this image)

Hürlimann, Annemarie. 1994. “Irving Penn: Collection privée/Irving Penn: Privatsammlung.” Exh. cat. Musée d’art et d’histoire/Editions Bentali. p. 24, cat. 4. (other print of this image)

Lundström, Jan-Erik. 1995. “Irving Penn fotografier: en donation till mine av Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn/Irving Penn Photographs: A Donation in Memory of Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn.” Exh. cat. Moderna Museet/Raster Förlag. p. 53. (other print of this image)

Westerbeck, Colin. 1997. “Irving Penn: A Career in Photography.” Exh. cat. Art Institute of Chicago/Bulfinch Press. p. 176, cat. 23.

Penn, Irving. 2001. “Still Life.” Bulfinch Press. n.pag. (other print of this image/variant with tighter cropping)

Ownership History

Given by the artist to the Art Institute, 1996.