Mainbocher Corset (loose)

1939, Printed Later
Silver Gelatin Photograph

Signed, titled, and dated on print verso. Artist blind stamp on recto.

Frame: 20 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches

The image that has become most closely associated with the “master of dramatic light” is Horst P. Horst’s iconic work, Mainbocher Corset from Paris in 1939. The timeless composition with its subtle elegance and astounding balance, not to mention the flattering light and dramatic shadows has become regarded by many as Horst’s best work.

Horst utilized a large format camera mounted on a stand with a focusing screen using long exposures allowing him to manipulate his compositions down to the minutest detail. One wonders how long Horst spent adjusting the bands in the corset to achieve his most elegant image with the model holding her pose for prolonged periods given Horst’s long exposures. Mainbocher Corset was carefully composed with every detail planned; yet it is still the product of a special moment.

Describing the context that the photograph was shot within, Horst says, “It was created by emotion…It was the last photo I took in Paris before the war. I left the studio at 4.00 a.m., went back to the house, picked up my bags and caught the 7.00 a.m. train to Le Havre to board the Normandie. The photograph is peculiar for me. While I was taking it, I was thinking of all that I was leaving behind.”

Perhaps the impending departure from an adopted home and feelings of loss and anxiety allowed Horst to compose the image with an altered and perhaps more emotionally charged outlook.