Marlene Dietrich

1942, Printed Later
Silver Gelatin Photograph

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


Marlene Dietrich (1901-92) gained international fame starring in paramount films such as Morocco (1930) and The Devil is a Woman (1935). The director Josef von Sternberg was instrumental in shaping the actress’s femme fatale image in those, and several other visually arresting movies.

Despite her immense stardom, Horst did not consider his fellow countrywoman a great beauty, commenting that ‘without makeup, her face had typical flat German features. She projected sex but she was not sexy’. The screen celebrities of the era were often known for specific attributes: Bette Davis for her eyes, and Dietrich for her perfect legs. Yet, for this portrait, Horst obscured the famous legs altogether, placing a chair in front of her.

The focus of the image is Dietrich’s face, with its slightly open mouth and heavily lidded eyes that gaze into the distance and effect an expression of longing. Though undoubtedly bewitching, she is depicted here as a real woman rather than a celluloid siren. – Adapted from “Horst Photographer of Style” by Susanna Brown