Headless woman, Palisades Park, N.J.

Diane Arbus (American, New York 1923–1971 New York)
Gelatin silver print
Image: 8 5/8 in. × 6 in. (21.9 × 15.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1998
Accession Number:
Not on view
This photograph belongs to an arresting series of photographs Arbus described as a "Horror Show" to her friend and advocate Walker Evans. In a September 1962 letter to Evans, Arbus commented on her photographs of performers who worked between screenings in cheap Times Square theaters, or at Hubert's Museum, a flea circus located in the basement of a 42nd Street penny arcade: "These are nightmares to beguile us while we wait." The photograph serves as a subtle but sophisticated observation of how what in the flesh might seem to be an obvious fake is transformed into an ambiguous mystery when seen by the camera. Thus, Arbus suggests, the camera may be more an agent of illusion than a diviner of truth.
Inscription: Artist's estate stamps and inscriptions in ink on verso, TL to TR: "Not to be reproduced in any way without // written permission from Doon Arbus.", "Copyright c [encircled] 1961 // The Estate of Doon Arbus", "a diane arbus print # [illegible] 20-00-1114 // doon arbus administrator [illegible] Arbus"
From the artist to Marvin Israel; (Sotheby's New York, 4 November 1984, lot 183) to unknown buyer; (Christie's, New York, 6 October 1998, lot 302)

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Diane Arbus Revelations," October 18, 2003–February 15, 2004.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Diane Arbus Revelations," February 29, 2004–May 30, 2004.

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Diane Arbus Revelations," June 27, 2004–August 22, 2004.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Diane Arbus Revelations," February 28, 2005–May 29, 2005.

The Met Breuer. "diane arbus: in the beginning," July 11, 2016–November 27, 2016.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "diane arbus: in the beginning," January 21, 2017–April 30, 2017.

Fundación Costantini Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires - MALBA. "diane arbus: in the beginning," July 13, 2017–October 9, 2017.

Arbus, Diane. Diane Arbus: Revelations. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003. p. 254.