The Tarot Reader

1949, printed 1984
Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009)


Image: 40 x 38 cm (15 3/4 x 14 15/16 in.) Sheet: 44 x 39.7 cm (17 5/16 x 15 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, gelatin silver print

Not On View


Americas, Photography



Irving Penn is one of the major photographers of the twentieth century and a key figure in the recording of fashion, still life, and portraiture. He took up photography in the 1940s and is still very highly regarded for his dazzlingly elegant images of models in casual moments of quiet contemplation. The refined sophistication and clarity of Penn’s work is connected to his powerful sense of graphic design and the technical perfection of his prints. “The Tarot Reader” was made for illustration in the October 15, 1949 issue of “Vogue” magazine and relates to a group of images from that year in which the photographer explored constructing images out of shades of tonalities and silhouettes.


Irving Penn, New York; sold to Robert Klein Gallery; sold to MFA March 21, 2007

Credit Line

Charles H. Bayley Picture and Painting Fund