Irving Penn's Portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Now on View at The Met in Tribute to the Life and Legacy of the Late Justice

The Metropolitan Museum

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New York, August 9, 1993
Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New York, August 9, 1993.
10 5/8 x 10 9/16 in. Gelatin silver print. The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Promised Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation © Condé Nast

Now on view at The Met is a remarkable photograph of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by the renowned portraitist Irving Penn (American, 1917–2009). The work is of special significance as Penn made this photograph on August 9, 1993, in his New York studio the day before Ginsburg left the city for Washington, D.C., where she would take the oath of office to be the second woman justice on the United States Supreme Court. The photograph will be on view through October 6, 2020, in the Museum's Robert Wood Johnson, Jr. Gallery.

"It is a privilege to be able to honor the life and legacy of a great American, New Yorker, and longtime Member of The Met by exhibiting this special photograph made by Irving Penn from the Museum's collection. Justice Ginsburg fought her whole life for civil liberties and women's rights, among many other progressive causes," said Jeff L. Rosenheim, the Joyce Frank Menschel Curator in Charge of the Department of Photographs at The Met.

Born in Brooklyn to immigrant parents, Ginsburg studied at Cornell, Harvard, and Columbia universities before embarking in 1959 on a brilliant teaching and judicial career. Justice Ginsburg died at age 87 on September 18, 2020, after serving for 27 years on the Supreme Court.

Irving Penn had few equals as an observer of human expression, as his penetrating portraits reveal. He had an acute graphic intelligence and a sculptor's sensitivity to volumes in light. In this image, Justice Ginsburg appears wearing a traditional black robe, leaning into the camera, emphasizing her reputation as a force of nature (at just over five feet tall). The photograph was featured in the October 1993 issue of Vogue magazine in an article titled "Justice for Women."

At The Met, the portrait appeared in the 2017 Irving Penn: Centennial exhibition, which marked a magnificent promised gift from The Irving Penn Foundation to The Met in honor of the artist's centenary. The 187 photographs represent every period and all facets of the artist's long career with the camera.



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