Buon Compleanno Sophia!

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On September 20, 2014, the legendary actor Sophia Loren will turn 80 years old.

To celebrate her birthday, we present here a selection of publications that feature her photograph.

As early as 1955, LIFE magazine called Sophia Loren “Europe’s number one cover girl,” and she remains one of the most photographed and photographable actors of the 20th century.

Over the decades, she has been captured by Richard Avedon, Chim (David Seymour), Eve Arnold, Irving Penn, Sam Shaw, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Elliott Erwitt, Burt Glinn, Tazio Secchiaroli, Milton H. Greene, Gjon Mili, Francesco Scavullo, Helmut Newton, Herb Ritts, etc. [Check out the Loren Archives for an exhaustive list.]

What makes her so photogenic?

First and foremost, her pulchritude [from the Latin pulcher, meaning beautiful, fair], together with a remarkable ability to “play a role” for the still silent camera as complex as one in a motion picture.

How? Il linguaggio dei gesti [the language of gesture]. The Bay of Naples, where Loren grew up, was a place imbued with the history of Roman dramatic spectacles, from before the fifth century B.C.E., when Cicero wrote about elequentia corporis [eloquence of the body] in De Oratore, and long after the Commedia del Arte.

In the 1950s young Sophia Loren [then called Sofia Lazzaro] gestured & posed for fumetti [Italian, literally “little puffs of smoke,” in reference to the word balloons], the photo romances so popular in post-war Italy [a popularity that forms the basis for an early charming Fellini film called “The White Shiek”].

Her image was also printed on thousands of picture postcards still circulating throughout the world.

Instead of being rendered banal by this ubiquity, we recognize within it endless appealing variations of pulchritude and gesture, and appreciate what made her an iconic subject for photographers.

Organized by Deirdre Donohue with assistance from Carolina Herrera

If you are in New York on Friday, September 12, please join us for a Sophia Loren birthday cake at 6:00 pm.

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